Evangelicalism and Inverted Patriarchy

Evangelicalism and Inverted Patriarchy

Americans are finally beginning to reckon with the damaging effects of Evangelical purity culture. The publication of books like Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free, Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity, and Shameless: A Case for not Feeling bad about feeling good (about sex), has provoked a much needed discussion of the psychological and physical harms attendant upon belief in Evangelical conceptions of gender and sexuality. Yet these exposés have tended to focus exclusively on the ways purity culture has victimized and shamed women, and the discussions they have generated have a tendency to portray men as largely immune to the pernicious effects of purity culture. As a man who was raised in Evangelicalism, I know firsthand that this far from true: Purity culture is toxic to both genders.

I will attempt in this essay to broaden the discussion by exploring some of the ways that Evangelical Purity Culture has harmed men and boys. In the first section, I define purity culture in terms of the broader theistic understanding of holiness. Whereas holiness is said to characterize an ontological gap between God and his creation, various theistic communities extend this conception of holiness to themselves. Purity culture thus proves to be a means by which Evangelical Christians can differentiate their own tribe from others. In the second section, I examine the role of patriarchy in purity culture. I argue that while Evangelicalism is indeed patriarchal, it constitutes an inverted form of patriarchy. For, when the Evangelical conception of manhood is examined, one finds that it is defined by characteristics classically (and misogynistically) applied to women. While Evangelical Christianity does have a patriarchal structure, it is one that would be unrecognizable to classical cultures. Finally, in the third section, I enumerate some specific ways in which Evangelical Purity Culture harms men and boys.

1. Evangelical Purity Culture.

To understand Evangelical Purity Culture, henceforth EPC, one must understand the broader Judeo-Christian-Islamic conception of holiness. The concept of holiness is essential to the various forms of Western monotheism. Holiness is first said to be an essential feature of God, serving to differentiate him from what he has created. When a creature confronts a holy God, “there is a feeling of one’s own abasement, of being but ‘dust an ashes’ and nothingness” before Unconditioned Being.[1] In this primary sense, holiness is a matter of ontology. God, being infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, is wholly other than the finite, temporal, and mutable world we inhabit. Second, this ontological conception of holiness is then symbolically extended to ritual contexts in which certain times, places, or things are sanctified as holy, set apart from the profane order of nature.[2] And finally, and most importantly, in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition this concept of holiness is extended even further to apply to particular peoples set apart from the rest of humanity. In such a context, the concept of holiness is no longer primarily about the distinction between God and world, but between us (the holy people) and them (the profane people). Hence, we have Biblical declarations such as, “and ye [the children of Israel] shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6), “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deut 7:6), and “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who have called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). And, once one has divided the world in this way, the demand for divinely sanctioned conquest soon follows. Hence, passages such as “but ye shall be named the priests of the Lord: men shall call you the ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves” (Isa 61:6), and “thou art worthy to take the book and open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on earth” (Rev 5:9-10).

It is within this conquest narrative that EPC can best be understood. Though Evangelicals ostensibly identify their tribal boundaries through commitment to doctrines (such as biblical inerrancy, the bodily resurrection of Christ, penal substitutionary atonement, the need to be born again by submitting to Jesus as one’s personal master, and a literal hell for all those who fail to do so), this proves to be unworkable in practice. Doctrinal demarcation falls short of circumscribing the Evangelical tribe on two key grounds. First, most evangelicals are theologically illiterate. If you sit down with them and get them to start talking about their beliefs, you will be surprised at how quickly they come to endorse views deemed heretical within historical Christianity. For example, some Evangelicals are so adamant in upholding their hierarchical conception of gender that they are willing to sacrifice the historical doctrine of the trinity by endorsing the eternal subordination of the Son.[3] Second, beliefs, being internal mental representations, are hard to see. We cannot access other people’s core internal mental states just by cursorily glancing at their external appearance and superficial behaviors. Hence, though the “invisible church” might be constituted by personal faith, something more is needed to distinguish God’s holy people from the rest of the word.[4]

That something more is provided by industry. Specifically, Evangelicals can be identified by their conspicuous consumption of religious goods and services produced by an interlocking network of Evangelical businesses. Historian Kristen Du Mez has pointed out that “many evangelicals who would be hard pressed to articulate even the most basic tenets of evangelical theology have nonetheless been immersed in…evangelical popular culture”.[5] This popular culture is one that evangelical industry has created, and one “that it sells.”[6] Evangelicals read their own books and magazines, listen to their own radio stations, watch their own television channels and films, go to their own conferences, read their own blogs, etc.[7] “They’ve raised children with the help of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio programs or grown up watching Veggie Tales cartoons. They rocked out to Amy Grant or the Newsboys or DC Talk. They learned about purity before they learned about sex, and they have a silver ring to prove it. They watched The Passion of the Christ, Soul Surfer, or the latest Kirk Cameron film with their youth group. They attended Promise Keepers with guys from church and read Wild at Heart in small groups. They’ve learned more from Pat Robertson, John Piper, Joyce Meyer, and The Gospel Coalition than they have from their pastor’s Sunday sermons.”[8] What then sets evangelicals apart is their participation in the Evangelical marketplace, “a separate and sanctified consumer space” wherein “individuals form bonds with other like-minded consumers, and these affinities form the basis of a shared cultural identity.” [9]

Because these businesses exist within the larger American economy, they, like others, have closely aligned themselves with America’s military industrial complex. As a result, the core identity sold in the Evangelical market is Christian Nationalism. According to this ideology, America has been chosen by God to be a shining city on a Hill and rightful world leader. This American exceptionalism is grounded in its allegedly Christian heritage. Evangelicals cite a slogan they misattribute Tocqueville as evidence for their view: “If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”[10] And this goodness, claim Evangelicals, is grounded in the Christian family.

American values are family values, and families are thought to be bedrock of civilization. Without the discipline they instill in children’s hearts, society would soon devolve into chaos. This anxious worldview is rooted in the Evangelical conception of human nature. Evangelicals believe that human nature is totally depraved. Children are born inherently sinful; they are “young vipers….infinitely more hateful than vipers, and are in a most miserable condition.”[11] Their view is expressed by another misattributed passage they are fond of citing:

“Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it: his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmates toys, his uncle’s watch, or whatever. Deny him these and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness which would be murderous where he not so helpless. He’s dirty, he has no morals, no knowledge, no developed skills. This means that all children, not just certain children but all children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in their self-centered world of infancy, given free rein to their impulsive actions to satisfy each want, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist.”[12]

Families are thus needed to discipline these unruly children so that they do not grow up to become the criminals that they naturally are. Healthy families are thus essential for the well being of a nation, and, Evangelicals claim, healthy families are those which follow God’s law stipulating a strict gender hierarchy: strongmen are to command, and women and children are to submit to them. 

2. Inverted Patriarchy

EPC’s outlook is thus patriarchal. But, when examined more closely, it proves to be a very peculiar kind of patriarchy. For, though it holds to an authoritarian structure where men rule over women and children, its characterization of what men are differs dramatically from classical accounts of male nature. In fact, Evangelical accounts of manhood characterize it in terms of a set of vices that had classically served as a set of misogynistic tropes against women. Evangelicalism’s characterization of what men are is equivalent to classical fears of what women could be.

Classical Gender Ontology

Patriarchal societies have traditionally grounded the ideology of male rule in a gendered ontology. Aristotle, for example, can use the claim that “it is clear that the rule of the soul over the body, and of the mind and the rational element over the passionate, is natural and expedient; whereas the equality of the two or of the rule of the inferior is hurtful”[13] to justify his assertion that “the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled.”[14] Men are meant to rule because they are ontologically superior, having a share in reason and soul to which women are excluded. Reason is meant to rule over the passions, and since men are marked by reason and women by the passions, men ought to rule over women. Thus, Aristotle identifies the male principle with form, “the principle of movement and generation”, and “the female as possessing that of matter.” [15] And, since “Form… is better and more divine in its nature than the Matter, it is better also that the superior one should be separate from the inferior one. That is why wherever possible and so far as possible the male is separate from the female, since it is something better and more divine in that it is the principle of movement for generated things, while the female serves as their matter.”[16]

A similar picture can be found in the Pythagorean tradition. Their view is preserved by Aristotle when he claims that Pythagoreans “say there are ten principles, which they arrange in two columns of cognates–limit and unlimited, odd and even, one and plurality, right and left, male and female, resting and moving, straight and curved, light and darkness, good and bad, square and oblong.”[17] What we have here is an extension of the fundamental distinction between reason and passion. Something rational will be cognizable and thereby limited. If I, for example, cognize that an object before me is an apple, it cannot be a fish at the same time. To the extent that something is cognizable it must be limited. And these limits follow from its individuality—it is one thing rather than a plurality. Likewise, because the essences gasped by reason are unchanging, reason is associated with rest rather than motion. As a result, classical patriarchal ideology associated the male with the realm of being and the female with the realm of becoming. For example, philosopher of religion Julius Evola, commenting on the classical tradition maintains that “male and female can be made to correspond to being (in the highest sense) and to becoming; to that which has its own principle in itself, and to that which has a principle in another; to being (stability and unchangeableness) and to life in another; to being (stability and unchangeableness) and to life (change, soul, or animating substance, maternal substance of becoming).”[18]

By associating the masculine with reason and being and the feminine with passion and becoming classical patriarchy could ground male rule in an allegedly natural order of subordination. Just as reason ought to rule over unchecked passion, and being should take precedence over becoming, so man ought to rule over woman. Unbridled passion, to the classical mind, was like fierce chaotic waters which needed to be restrained lest they destroy society.[19]  Because women were marked by their cruelty, taking “delight in blood and death”[20], and were “more jealous, more querelous, more apt to scold and to strike, [and] more void of shame or self-respect” than men,[21] they needed to be constrained to the domestic sphere for fear that they would undermine the social order if they were to participate in it freely. While classical patriarchy is justly open to criticism, at least its ideology prima facie made sense on its own terms. Most criticisms of Evangelical Patriarchy assume that it falls under classical patriarchy as a specific instance. As a result, critics rely on standard psychological and sociological accounts of the origins of patriarchy to explain the emergence of Evangelicalism’s particular form of patriarchy. But I contend that when the Evangelical conception of manhood is examined in detail, it conflicts with core features of classical patriarchal ideology. Indeed, Evangelicalism presents what I call an inverted patriarchal ideology. Though it claims that men should rule (thus constituting a form of patriarchy), it defines male nature in terms of vices that had traditionally (and misogynistically) been thought to constitute female nature in classical culture. Thus, if we are to explain the origins Evangelicalism’s inverted patriarchy a new mode of explanation must be found.[22]

Evangelical Manhood

Evangelical’s conception of “Biblical Manhood” is marked by five key features: (1) being “wild at heart”, possessing a passionate and essentially chaotic nature, and as a result (2) having an aggressive impulse that longs for war and (3) a violent sexual drive. To protect society from his wild heart, (4) it is necessary for him to be married to check and channel his passions in a pro-social direction. But ultimately, (5) the only way to prevent man’s criminal impulses from breaking loose is for him to live a life of total obedience. Let’s examine each of these features in turn.

  1. Wild at Heart

John Eldridge’s bestselling book Wild at Heart was extremely influential in Evangelical circles, sparking countless knock offs, small groups, and conferences. As the title suggests, it characterizes men as an essentially passional being who cannot live a civilized life, but must escape to the chaotic realm of wild nature. Whereas Eve was created in a garden—something ordered by reason to make it beautiful, Adam was “created outside the garden, in the wilderness…in the outback, from the untamed part of creation.”[23] Or again, Eldridge claims, Moses was not content to dwell in Egypt’s evolved and orderly culture with its majestic pyramids and elaborate religious rites[24], but sought the wilderness of Sinai. As a result, Eldridge concludes that “danger and wildness” are “deeply spiritual” longings “written into the soul of man.”[25] Fear, claims Eldridge, is the only thing that keeps man from following these longings and remaining in the rational civilized world “where things are neat and orderly and under his control.”[26] Because of this contempt for the rational and identification with the passional, Eldridge spurns social roles that would have been considered as paradigmatically masculine in a traditional society such as priesthood or professorship as those of “tamed” and “domesticated men.”[27] Instead, he turns to Hollywood for a more fitting myth: The Cowboy of the American West.

In a rather remarkable passage, Eldridge manages to use the film Legends of the Fall, to associate Europe, the East Coast of the United States, and even culture and literacy with femininity, while identifying masculinity with the Cowboy who flees from culture into the Wild West. Eldridge recounts a conversation with his friend:

“‘My mother loves to go to Europe on her vacations.’ We were talking about our love of the West, a friend and I, and why he moved out here from the East Coast. ‘And that’s okay for her, I guess. There’s a lot of culture there. But I need wildness.’ Our conversation was stirred by the film Legends of the Fall, the story of three young men coming of age in the early 1900s on their father’s ranch in Montana. Alfred, the eldest, is practical, pragmatic, cautious. He heads off to the Big City to become a businessman and eventually, a politician….. Samuel, the youngest, is still a boy in many ways, a tender child–literate, sensitive, timid. He is killed early in the film and we know he was not ready for battle. Then there is Tristan, the middle son. He is wild at heart. It is Tristan who embodies the West–he catches and breaks the wild stallion, fights the grizzly with a knife, and wins the beautiful woman. I have yet to meet a man who wants to be Alfred or Samuel. I’ve yet to meet a woman who wants to marry one. There’s a reason the American cowboy has taken on mythic proportions. He embodies the yearning every man knows from very young–to ‘go West,’ to find a place where he can be all he knows he was meant to be.”[28]

We here have a definition of manhood antithetical to that of the classical tradition. Man is passional, not rational. He does not stand as keeper of the eternal word and custodian of the civilization based upon it, but as a rugged cowboy at home in the wild, on his own, where he can singlehandedly fight “a grizzly with a knife.”[29] Not only does this viewpoint reverse the traditional gender polarity by identifying masculinity with passion and femininity with rational order, but its beloved Cowboy would have appeared positively subhuman to classical man. We can see this in the way Homer characterized the man-eating Cyclopes in the Odyssey. These “lawless and outrageous” monsters “have no institutions, no meetings for counsels; rather they make their habitations in caverns hollowed among the peaks of the high mountains, each on is the law for his own wives and children, and cares nothing about others.”[30] They live alone, apart from society, “savage and violent, and without justice.” [31] And when Odysseus meets the Cyclopes Polyphemous he describes him as “a monstrous wonder made to behold, not like a man, an eater of bread, but more like a wooded peak of the high mountains seen standing away from others….a man who was endowed with great strength, and wild, with no true knowledge of laws or any good customs.”[32] That such a bestial life would be held up as an ideal of manhood, would have been unthinkable to the classical mind.

Lust for War

Because men are essentially passional and wild at heart, they are characterized by their savage aggression. Manhood, for Evangelicals, expresses itself in an unquenchable lust for war. Eldridge stipulates “aggression is part of the masculine design; we are hardwired for it. If we believe that man is made in the image of God, then we would do well to remember that ‘The Lord is a warrior; the LORD is his name (Ex. 15:3).’…. Little girls do not invent games where large numbers of people die, where bloodshed is a prerequisite to having fun…A boy wants to attack something….he wants to whack it to kingdom come….They grow bored of games that have no element of danger or competition or bloodshed. Cooperative games based on ‘relational interdependence’ are complete nonsense.”[33]

Males, for Eldridge, cannot comprehend the complex “games of relational dependence” constitutive of civilized life. They would find no place for themselves in the city, much less the complicated social relations involved in governing an empire like that of ancient Rome. Rather, men thrive when they can express their inborn aggression, preferably through bloodshed on a massive scale so that “large numbers of people die”, but, if necessary, simply by “whacking” something “to kingdom come.” In short, Eldridge identifies male nature with simple animal savagery. In this respect, he believes man is formed in the image of his provincial God. He queries “I wonder if the Egyptians who kept Israel under the whip would describe Yahweh as a Really nice Guy? Plagues, pestilence, the death of every firstborn–that doesn’t seem very gentlemanly now, does it? What would miss manners have to say about taking the promised land? Does wholesale slaughter fit under ‘Calling on Your New Neighbors?”[34]

While this ideology may be useful to condition men to be willing to die and, more importantly, kill on command, it is far from the warrior ethic of the classical world.[35] Take, for example, Virgil’s conception of the Roman mission in the Aeneid. After descending to the underworld, Aeneas finds his father Anchises who provides him a glimpse of Rome’s future. In the process, Anchises enjoins him to stay faithful to the Roman mission: “O Roman, to rule the nations in thine empire; this shall be thine art, to lay down the law of peace, to be merciful to the conquered and beat the haughty down.”[36] The Roman empire was undoubtedly bellicose, but even its ideology was far from the brutal celebration of savagery for savagery’s sake presented by Eldridge. Romans thought it was their destiny to rule, but the justification for their rule was to extend the civilized order, to “lay down the law of peace”, sparing all those who did not want to fight, and warring down only the proud who resisted the rule of law. The Roman warrior does not fight from bloodlust but to uphold the peace of the empire. Roman manhood is associated with Imperium, the duty to administer the empire and propagate its laws, not inherent aggression. Showing mercy to the conquered was just as much a part of Roman manhood as beating down the haughty, and, in order to act on this distinction, the Roman man needed to be able to adjudicate between the two. In other words, the Roman must proceed by reason, not sheer passion.  Once more, the grounds for sovereignty were rooted in ontology. The Roman ought to rule because his rule was grounded in Reason.

In fact, the intrinsic aggressiveness Evangelicals ascribe to masculinity was once a misogynistic trope against femininity. As noted previously, Aristotle claimed that women were “more querulous” and “more apt to scold and to strike” than men.[37] Similarly, Schopenhauer claimed that “among men by nature there is merely indifference, but among women there is already hostility by nature. It probably stems from ‘professional jealousy,’ which with men is limited to their particular guild, but with women encompasses the entire sex, since they all have only one profession. Even in chance encounters on the street they size one another up like Guelphs and Ghibellines.”[38] And Weininger likewise asserted “when a man is not yet certain of himself he may try to secure his own position by jostling others. Great men, however, are painfully aggressive only from necessity. They are not like a girl who is most pleased about a new dress because she knows that it will annoy her friends.”[39]

Lust for Sex

Man’s aggressive impulse, according to Evangelicalism, not only expresses itself in battlefield, but in the bedroom. In addition to the slaughter of his enemies, man’s passion is expressed through his violent sexuality. Evangelical purity culture frequently draws the analogy between sexual acts and the consumption of assorted foodstuffs: “the untouched cookie or candy bar versus the one that has been chomped into; the unwrapped lollipop versus one that decreases in size and desirability after being licked for the first time, just once, and then licked again by anyone who is willing to put somebody else’s saliva in their mouth; the new piece of gum versus the one that has been chewed; and so on.”[40] Linda Klein points out that, in these contexts, women tend to be identified with the items consumed. “It’s interesting…the emphasis on being devoured, right? This message that we should look at our sexuality as food…for someone else…. As though it’s all about how well we are able to feed another, like, ‘if I let this person eat, then this other person won’t be properly fed. Or won’t want to devour me.”[41] If female sexuality is to be equated with being eaten, then male sexuality would be that which eats, feeds, and devours. So, again, masculinity is defined in terms of its passional nature, this time its violent and insatiable hunger for sex.

This definition is expressed in canonical books on Evangelical masculinity, such as Arterburn, Stoeker, and Yorkey’s Every Man’s Battle.  Arterburn (et. al.)[42] claims that one primary “reason for the prevalence of sexual sin among men” is that “we got there naturally–simply by being male…. The natural tendencies inherent to maleness … will touch every aspect of sexual purity for … [other men], just as they do for me. Our very maleness …represents …[a] reason for the pervasiveness of sexual impurity among men.”[43] He goes on to assert that, simply by being male, men are dominated by “a strong, regular sex drive”[44] and that satisfaction of this drive comes “through the eyes.”[45] “Our eyes give men the means to sin broadly and at will. We don’t need a date or a mistress. We don’t ever need to wait. We have our eyes and can draw sexual gratification through them at any time….Women seldom understand this because they aren’t sexually stimulated in the same way…They view this visual aspect of our sexuality as shallow and even detestable…. [But] for males, impurity of the eyes is sexual foreplay.”[46] On this view, simply by looking on at the world (a passive state), one is sexually engaging with it. Indeed, Arterburn even finds a way to combine military and gustatory analogies by describing the male gaze both as a weapons system and as a means of consumption as he recollects, in vulgar detail, his experience of ogling a woman.

“I never set out to be girl watching that day; but I spotted her about two hundred yards ahead and to the left. She was jogging toward me along the coastal sidewalk…. My eyes locked on to this goddess like blonde, rivulets of sweat cascading down her tanned body as she ran at a purposeful pace….My eyes feasted on this banquet of glistening flesh as she passed on my left, and they continued to follow her lithe figure as she continued jogging southbound. Simply by lustful instinct, as if mesmerized by her gait, I turned my head further and further, craning my neck to capture every possible moment for my mental video camera.”[47]

According to Arterburn, this overwhelming sexual hunger permeates and defines all masculine being as such. Women, as a result, look on with a mixture of “pity and disgust.”[48]

This once again inverts a traditional misogynistic trope against women. For women were once thought to be defined exclusively by their sexuality, whereas men were said to be free to concern themselves with other matters. For example, Weininger claims that “the female principle is… nothing more than sexuality; the male principle is sexual and something more” and that “the female…is completely occupied and content with sexual matters, whilst men are interested in much else, in war and sport, in social affairs and feasting, in philosophy and science, in business and politics, in religion and art.”[49] This, he thought, was due to the greater degree of consciousness in man. “We may, therefore, deduce from the previous arguments that man has the power of consciousness of his sexuality and so can act against it, while the woman appears to be without this power. This implies, moreover, that there is greater differentiation in man, as in him the sexual and the unsexual parts of his nature are sharply separated.”[50] Again, this is a complete reversal of the picture of manhood presented by Evangelical Christianity.

Redemption through Marriage and the Domestic Sphere

For Evangelicals, if men, such as they are, were left to their own devices, society would soon unravel in a Hobbesian war of all against all.  Their solution, then, to ensure that masculine aggression is properly bridled and controlled is to stockade it within the institution of marriage. Heterosexual marriage, Evangelicals believe, is the one redeeming context where masculine energy can be safely expressed without undermining society. First, marriage is thought to dampen man’s rabid sexuality. An Evangelical husband will promise his wife that she will be his “only vessel for sexual satisfaction on the face of the earth.”[51] Or, as stated more crassly by another Evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll, God created women “to serve as penis ‘homes’ for lonely penises.”[52] It is only within the confines of marriage, in pledging absolute fealty to a particular woman, that Evangelicals will allow themselves to imagine a positive role for maleness.

“We can’t eliminate maleness, and we’re sure we don’t want to. For instance, we want to look at our wives and desire them. They’re beautiful to us, and we’re sexually gratified when we gaze at them, often daydreaming about the night ahead and what bedtime will bring. In its proper place, maleness is wonderful.”[53]

Second, marriage also allows one to direct male aggression towards targets those in power deem appropriate. Because man now has “a beauty to rescue”, he will now be willing to wage war against alleged enemies of the domestic order. “A man must have a battle to fight, a great mission to his life that involves and yet transcends even home and family. He must have a cause to which he is devoted even unto death, for this is written in the fabric of his being.”[54] Though God’s “Great Battle”[55] may transcend home and family, it always involves them for a man. Eldridge claims “the theme of a strong man coming to rescue a beautiful woman is universal to human nature. It is written in our hearts, one of the core desires of every man and every woman.” So, in a desire to defend his “beauty”, a man’s lust for war can be transformed into profit for the war industry. Books on purity culture have done an excellent job of describing how this framework is harmful to women, treating them as sexual objects rather than autonomous subjects while at the same time foisting upon them responsibility for the sexual behaviors of others. I won’t here add to their excellent criticisms, but simply point out how the model sketched above actually inverts classical patriarchal ideology (which is, again, something that can be criticized in its own right). For note that, on this model, man on his own, because of his essentially chaotic passional nature is a danger to society. If society is to function, men must be imprisoned within the domestic sphere. This was essentially the justification that traditional patriarchy used to bar women from civic life.

Obedience

But, ultimately, for Evangelicals even marriage is not enough of a safeguard against passional masculinity. The problem can only be truly dealt with by compelling men to a life of absolute obedience. A man must submit absolutely to God, obeying the commands of his Heavenly Father without question. Arterburn frames this as a choice between excellence and obedience, with the latter being the correct choice.  He asks, “what’s your aim in life–excellence or obedience? What’s the difference? To aim for obedience is to aim for perfection, not for ‘excellence,’ which is actually something less. ‘Wait a minute! You reply. ‘I thought excellence and perfection were the same thing.’ sometimes they appear to be. But mere excellence allows room for a mixture. In most arenas, excellence is not a fixed standard at all. It’s a mixed standard.”[56] To truly choose a life of obedience, one must transcend one’s maleness and become a Real Man by submitting to the power of the Holy Spirit and obeying one’s Father in heaven. He exhorts:

“We must choose to be more than male. We must choose manhood…. When our fathers said, ‘be a man,’ they were asking us to be like them. Our heavenly father also exhorts us to be men. He wants us to be like him. When he calls us to ‘be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.’ He’s asking us to rise above our natural tendencies to impure eyes, fanciful minds and wandering hearts. His standard of purity doesn’t come naturally to us. He calls us to rise up, by the power of his indwelling presence, and get the job done.”[57]

In short, we are left with an Orwellian definition of True Manhood: “When it comes down to it, God’s definition of real manhood is pretty simple: It means hearing His word and doing it. That’s God’s only definition of manhood a doer of the Word. And God’s definition of a sissy is someone who hears the Word of God and doesn’t do it.”[58] War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is Strength.[59]

So, at the end of the day, true manhood is identified with obedience. Furthermore, of himself, man lacks even the power to obey. It must be accepted passively by taking the Spirit of God inside of him as an external gift. Evangelicalism’s ultimate characterization of True Manhood thus proves to be identical to classical patriarchy’s most degrading characterizations of women. For women, portrayed as passional creatures devoid of reason, were said to be destined for a life of obedience. For example, Schopenhaur claims “women are suited to be nurses and governesses of our earliest childhood precisely by the fact that they themselves are childish, silly and short-sighted, in a word, big children their whole life long, a sort of intermediate stage between a child and a man, who is the actual human being.” [60] Or again, “that woman is by nature destined to obedience can be recognized by the fact that every one of them who is placed in a position of complete independence, which is unnatural to them, immediately attaches herself to some man by whom she allows herself to be guided and ruled; because she needs a master.”[61]  What Evangelicals portray as Biblical Manhood, would have been seen in the classical world as quintessentially feminine.

3. Evangelical Inverted Patriarchy’s Damaging Effects on Men

The Evangelical conception of Biblical Manhood can have disastrous effects on those who believe it. I will examine a few of these serious harms below.  

Double Bind

Evangelical men live in an impossible double bind. They are told that they must be hypermasculine strong men, sex crazed warriors who will violently defend family and tribe from all imagined threats, yet, they are also told that to be such Real Men they must live a life of childlike and servile obedience to their Heavenly Father (and, conveniently, to Evangelical leadership). This basic contradiction frames their entire lives, and, since the contradiction cannot be overcome within Evangelicalism’s inverted patriarchy, they come to see themselves as perpetual failures.[62]

Shame

This perpetual state of failure leads to a deep sense of shame. Shame is the currency of purity culture, for both men and women. As Klein points out: “The purity message is not about sex. Rather, it is about us: who we are, who we are expected to be, and who it is said we will become if we fail to meet those expectations.”[63] Whereas guilt applies to actions, shame applies to identity. This shame is the result of Evangelicalism’s bizarre standard of sexual purity. Their  purity standards instill shame in two key ways. First, they induce shame because they legislate an individual’s internal thoughts, feelings, and desires rather than his external actions. Evangelicals take themselves to be following the teaching of Jesus in this regard when he commands:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matt 5: 27-30).

Here Jesus claims that adultery is something that can be committed in the heart by having lustful feelings or thoughts. Evangelicals likewise turn to the NIV translation of Eph 5:3 where the author claims that “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” to support their position.[64] Whereas standards that govern sexual behavior can be formulated with relative clarity,[65] thoughts, feelings, and desires are more ambiguous and less under autonomous control, and thus harder to legislate. Because (a) it is difficult to determine the explicit contents of the thoughts, feelings, and desires that flow through one’s consciousness on a moment by moment basis, and (b) their occurrence does not admit to rigid control, the evangelical man is set up to fail. And because he continues to fail to meet this “perfect” standard of purity, he will likely believe that he is a failure, deserving of being “cast into hell.” The end result of adopting Evangelicalism’s ambiguous internalized standard of purity is an overwhelming sense of shame.

            Second, this absolute internalized standard instills shame by creating a false moral equivalency. According to the absolute standards of Evangelical purity, ‘lustful’ feelings, adultury, and rape are all equally wrong. Purity culture lacks the categories by which to differentiate between such cases and explain why the latter are qualitatively different than the former. Arterburn, for example, takes noticing and being amused by double entendres,[66] remembering old girlfriends,[67] failing to condemn the movie Forest Gump for its alleged sexual perversions,[68] masturbation,[69] and sex dreams,[70] as equivalent to genuinely troubling behaviors such as stalking or voyeurism:

“What about you? Maybe it’s true that when you and a woman reach a door simultaneously, you wait to let her go first, but not out of honor. You want to follow her up the stairs and look her over. Maybe you’ve driven your rental car to the parking lot of a local gym between appointments, watching scantily clad women bounding in and out, fantasizing and lusting—even masturbating—in the car…. Yet privately, your conscience dims until you can’t tell what’s right or wrong anymore, watching things like Forrest Gump without even noticing the sexuality.”[71]

Such categorical confusion serves to pathologize the normal and to normalize the pathological. Thus, a notable pastor Jack Hayford can admit nonchalantly before a group of ten thousand that, sitting in his car “after a banking transaction with a lovely bank teller”, “I’m either going to have to purify my mind and consecrate myself unto God, or I’m going to have to masturbate right here.”[72] This moral equivalency is not only ethically appalling, but it creates a deep sense of shame in men who treat their ordinary dreams and desires as undeniable signs of their moral degeneracy. The attendant shame is taken as normative by Evangelicals like Arterburn who describe what they take to be the legitimate “shock and revulsion”[73] that women feel towards maleness. “We men understand your shock. After all we’re often overwhelmed in the sexual area, and we loathe it ourselves. That’s why we want mercy, although we know we don’t deserve mercy…. There’s a natural tug of war in the hearts of women between pity and disgust.”[74]

Anxiety

The ambiguous internal standards of Evangelical purity not only instill shame, but they are also used to create a perpetual state of anxiety.  For, Evangelical preachers claim, sexual sins progress with inexorable certainty.[75] “Becoming ensnared by sexual sin… [happens] easily and naturally, like slipping off a log….Our maleness brings us a natural vulnerability to sexual sin.”[76] An unchecked thought or impure desire lead down a slippery slope to becoming a serial rapist and murderer. And, since unapproved thoughts and desires may occur at any time, one must be ever on guard lest one descend into savagery. Evangelicals claim that sexual addiction begins at level zero, “being totally pure and holy”, and then progresses by “fractional addiction” from any deviation from this standard. Arterburn, for example, claims that answering yes to any of the following questions indicates that “you’re lurking at the door to sexual addiction”: “Do you lock on when an attractive woman comes near you? Have you found your wife less sexually satisfying? Are you holding a grudge against your wife, a grudge that gives you a sense of entitlement? Do you have a private place or secret compartment that you keep hidden from your wife? Do you look forward to going on a business trip?” Any of these could lead one to spiral into depravity.

From this fractional level of addiction, one then progresses to the level of normative activity (activities that are generally accepted by society, but still allegedly violate God’s law) such as masturbation, sexual fantasy, or being gay or lesbian.[77]  From there one progresses to indecent activities such as “exhibitionism…, voyeurism…., transvestism…, bestiality…, obscene letters or phone calls, fetishism…, necrophilia…and a variety of indecent public acts.”[78] Finally, one reaches the extreme level in which people “violate their victims with painful and criminal acts. The nature of these acts is generally considered so vile that the perpetrators are often viewed as subhuman and incorrigible. This is the level where we find sociopathic sex criminals such as serial murderers Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. Behaviors at this level include child molestation, incest, rape, and sadomasochism.”[79] Thus, to the Evangelical mind, there is a straight line of descent from being less sexually satisfied with your wife and having sexual fantasies to becoming a serial killer and child molester. For those who take this teaching seriously, life in the world becomes absolutely terrifying.

            This anxiety is amplified once one considers the additional spiritual dimension that Evangelicals believe is at play. If a man is not perpetually vigilent in taking every thought and feeling captive for Christ (2 Cor 10:5), then he “opens the door” for Satan and his demons to possess him. Mark Bubeck, a popular writer on spiritual warfare, asserts that “giving way willfully to practice sins of the flesh gives occasion for Satan to have his way in a believer’s life” and that “willful indulgence in fleshly sins…can produce bondage to Satan. There comes a time where the practice of a particular fleshly sin may move from a sin of the flesh into a sin controlled and dictated by satanic, demonic activity. This means that the compulsive inner desire of the old nature is joined by a strong spirit of demonic power that begins to dictate in a given area the behavior of that believer.”[80] And once one’s psyche is demonized, one is led not only down the slippery slope of becoming a serial killer, but one will also likely be compelled to join what Evangelicals believe to be a vast Satanic cabal that secretly controls the world.[81] Within this Satanic cult, one is thought to engage in rape, torture, child molestation, and child sacrifice.[82] Neil Anderson, another Evangelical authority on spiritual warfare, for example, claims that “several former participants have told me that satanic worship is a degrading and dehumanizing sex orgy. Satanists practice selective breeding to propagate their super race. Inferior offspring are used for sacrifice.”[83] To avoid this fate, it is necessary to identify and verbally renounce (since Satan can’t read minds) every sexual sin one has ever committed. Anderson provides a ritualized prayer to recite:

“If you are struggling with habitual sexual sins (pornography, masturbation, sexual promiscuity) or experiencing sexual difficulty or lack of intimacy in your marriage, pray as follows: Lord, I ask you to reveal to my mind every sexual use of my body as an instrument of unrighteousness. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen. As the Lord brings to your mind every sexual use of your body, whether it was done to you (rape, incest, or any sexual molestation) or willingly by you, renounce every occasion: Lord, I renounce (name of the specific use of your body) with (name of the person) and ask you to break that bond. Now commit your body to the Lord by praying: Lord, I renounce all these uses of my body as an instrument of unrighteousness and by so doing ask you to break all bondages that Satan has brought into my life through that involvement. I confess my participation. I now present my body to you as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to you, and I reserve the sexual use of my body only for [heterosexual] marriage.” [84]

This worldview is one of profound anxiety. One is not only terrified that one might succumb to sexual sin by failing to resist an arousing thought, feeling, or desire, but one is also haunted by the worry that one may have forgotten to explicitly renounce a past sin and thus remain liable to demonic possession.

            Homeschooled children and those sequestered in strict Christian schools are placed in an even more terrifying predicament. Conservative Christians frequently deny even minimal sex education to their children. As a result, children are forced to go into adolescence completely ignorant of the changes that are taking place in their personality. They are kept ignorant of the basic anatomy of the opposite sex and of the basic mechanics of sexual intercourse. This ignorance, when paired with the massive changes of adolescence, and the commands to be sexually pure without really knowing what that entails, is a recipe for profound anxiety. And, unfortunately, this is not the end of the story. These children, who are prohibited from knowing even the basics of anatomy, are exposed at the same time to horror stories of alleged Satanic Ritual Abuse. For example, one Christian comedian I listened to as a child told stories like the following:

“I’m talking about a little girl I Louisiana who was murdered in 1987 by a group of people who practice a form of satanism. When a Satanist kills—if a Satanist kills, and all Satanists do not—they don’t kill to spill blood. The idea is when something dies—an animal, a person—the force is released. If the right rituals have been performed, then these present can absorb the power that is released during death. And in the cases of some Satanic cults, the more violent and painful the death, the more power is released, and the more power can be absorbed. They killed this child by cutting her sexual organs out while she was alive. And then they cut her chest open and took out her heart, cut it up in little chunks, and took communion on it. And they cut down both sides of her head and down the back, they peeled the flesh away from the bone, they stole her skull to be used in further ceremonies, and took her mutilated body and put it in a garbage bag and threw her in the dump. I don’t mean to offend you. I don’t mean to offend your children. But this sort of activity is offensive to me.”[85]

This combination of ignorance of basic facts of life and exposure to the most grotesque of stories can result in crippling terror.

Worse yet, the anxiety is amplified with time as it reinforces itself in a seemingly endless feedback loop. Given their standards of purity, anything short of an immediate instinctive repulsion from the sensual will open the door to demonic possession and begin the slippery slope to becoming a serial killer. Arterburn describes the ideal state as follows:

“you can win this battle by training your eyes to ‘bounce’ away from sights of pretty women and sensual images…. The problem is that your eyes have always bounced toward the sexual, and you’ve made no attempt to end this habit. To combat it, you need to build a reflex action by training your eyes to immediately bounce away from the sexual, like the jerk of your hand away from a hot stove.”[86]

In order to be safe, one needs to be repulsed by the sensual as a matter of instinct. Just as one immediately and unthinkingly pulls one’s hand away from a hot stove, so must he automatically turn away from the sensual. One key problem for this approach is that, because of its internalized and ambiguous conception of purity, the Evangelical man is not only called on to shun sexual behaviors deemed illicit by the community, but to rid oneself of thoughts, feelings, and desire that might lead to anything remotely sexual. This functionally amounts to a ban on sensation as such. Jungian psychologists Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, for example, subsume “vividness, aliveness, and passion” under the archetype of the lover.[87] They claim:

“The Lover archetype is primary to the psyche… because it is the energy of sensitivity to the outer environment. It expresses what Jungians call the ‘sensation function,’ the function of the  psyche that is trained in on all the details of sensory experience, the function that notices colors and forms, sounds, tactile sensations, and smells. The Lover also monitors the changing texture of the inner psychological world as it responds to incoming sensory impressions.”[88]

As a result, simply being alive to the world presents a mortal danger for Evangelical man. If he does not shun his sensory experience with a reflexive revulsion, he will soon slide down the road to becoming a child molester and serial killer. But, since humans are embodied beings, he cannot instinctually shun sensation. Thus, Evangelical men are terrified of their own being.

And this terror further amplifies itself. Psychological research as shown that we often misattribute our arousal. For instance, we might, after exposure to a frightening stimulus, vigorous exercise, or even a shot of espresso, find ourselves with an elevated heart rate, breathing rate, and sweaty palms. In these contexts, psychologists have found that people are more likely to find people around them to be sexually attractive.[89] The upshot, then, is that fear can be interpreted as sexual arousal. Now, consider the case of the Evangelical man. He lives in fear of his sensations lest they be sexual and lead him to demon possession and depravity. But this fear is then interpreted as itself a sign of sexual arousal. This then frightens him further, which he takes to be yet a further sign of his uncontrollable lust. The anxiety, in this manner, grows without end.[90]

Genital Mutilation

Evangelicals loudly decry the fact that minors are allowed to undergo gender transition surgery, claiming it involves making life altering non-reversable changes to the sexual organs of a child not yet capable of consenting to those changes. And they are likewise appalled the practice of female genital mutilation and cite it as evidence of the barbarity of the Muslim world. Yet, Evangelicals are happy to mutilate their own boys in circumcision.[91] I suspect that there are two key reasons for their contradictory stance. The first is theological ignorance. Many take Biblical commands like the following to be literal and binding:

And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. Gen 17:9-14.

Many Christians take this command at face value, unaware of other New Testament declarations to the contrary (1 Cor 7:19, Gal 5:6) and the fact that St. Paul pronounces a curse on those who claim circumcision is a necessary component of Christianity (Gal 1:6-9).

The second reason American Evangelicals accept male genital mutilation is even more pernicious: the acceptance of circumcision flows from Evangelicalism’s Inverted Patriarchy. Since male sexuality as such is monstrous and essentially criminal, medical interventions were proposed to physically remove it. The popularity of circumcision in Britain and the US was driven by a desire to curtail male sexuality. Remarking on the history of modern circumcision, physician Morris Sorells notes “Victorian era anxieties over sexual matters and the perception that the strict puritanical sexual mores of the eighteenth century had broken down provided fertile ground for ambitious practitioners to link a wide array of physical and emotional problems to ‘excessive’ sexual drive, masturbation, and other forms of sexual activity.”[92] At its inception, modern circumcision was thought of “as a punishment and as a means of decreasing sexual sensation and sexual activity.”[93] It was for the purposes of this “moral hygiene”, i.e. “the perceived need to decrease sexual sensation, desire, and activity”[94] that the so called hygienic nature of circumcision was invented. Masculinity was thought to be inherently dirty and needed to be cut away and reshaped by society. Sorrells cites a physician from 1935 on the justification for circumcision:

“I suggest that all male children should be circumcised. This is ‘against nature,’ but that is exactly the reason why it should be done. Nature intends that the adolescent male shall copulate as often and as promiscuously as possible, and to that end covers the sensitive glans so that it shall be ever ready to receive stimuli. Civilization, on the contrary, requires chastity, and the glands of the circumcised rapidly assumes a leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Thus the adolescent has his attention drawn to his penis much less often. I am convinced that masturbation is much less common in the circumcised. With these considerations in view it does not seem apt to argue  that ‘God knows best how to make little boys.’”[95]

Boys, on this view, are inherently vicious and must be physically and psychologically reconstituted lest they destroy civilization.

Inverted Patriarchy was thus the ideological ground of modern circumcision. Historian Robert Darby points out that the widespread practice of circumcision relied on a reconceptualization of the phallus.

“Where the uncircumcized penis had been regarded as pure, healthy, natural, beautiful, masculine, and good…they succeeded in portraying it as ‘polluted, unnatural, harmful, alien, effeminized and disfigured,’ while spinning the circumcised penis, formerly regarded as ugly and chaotic, as ‘true, orderly, and good.’”[96]

In order to justify the routine disfigurement of boys, society had to stop thinking of them as naturally good and healthy, and to start thinking of them as vicious and a disease to the social order. In short, it was the emergence of Inverted Patriarchy that led to and justified the practice of routine male genital mutilation.

The Social Dilemma

Many have rightly pointed out how Evangelicalism harms women and girls by restricting their freedoms and confining them to servile roles. Because domestic life constitutes the only acceptable role for women (“woman will be saved through childbearing” 1 Tim 2:15), they are forced to choose between becoming a subservient wife or a spinster and social pariah. It is worth noting that men are also forced to make a similarly repugnant choice under Evangelicalism’s inverted patriarchy. Men too are confronted with the dilemma of Christian marriage.

Male nature, according to Evangelicals, is chaotic and criminal and can only be redeemed through marriage. This leaves men with the choice of either marrying or being shunned as a potential child molester and rapist.  Evangelicals will even violate the law to enforce this choice on men. I once overheard a professor at an Evangelical University remark to his colleague that he would never hire an unmarried man for fear that he would seduce his students. So, to be accepted by the community, a man must marry. But, despite the rhetoric of husbands being the patriarchal heads of their households, married life for Evangelical men is inherently servile. By being forced to undertake substantial (and doubtlessly vital) duties to his wife and children, a man will thereby need to sacrifice other goals and values. Physical procreation, for many Evangelical men, rules out the possibility of spiritual procreation.[97]  Evangelical leader James Dobson characterizes it as follows:

“The straight life for a working man… is pulling your tired frame out of bed, five days a week, fifty weeks out of the year. It is earning a two-week vacation in August, and choosing a trip that will please the kids. The straight life is spending your money wisely when you’d rather indulge in a new whatever; it is taking your son bike riding on Saturday when you want so badly to watch the baseball game; it is cleaning out the garage on your day off after working sixty hours the prior week. The straight life is coping with head colds and engine tune-ups and crab grass and income-tax forms; it is taking our family to church on Sunday when you’ve heard every idea the minister has to offer; it is giving a portion of your income to God’s work when you already wonder how ends will meet.”[98]

And that is when things go well. If one is married to an abusive partner, homelife will be positively hellish.  This, then, is the material reality of life for men under Evangelicalism’s inverted patriarchy.

Exacerbating Physical Abuse

Evangelical culture celebrates corporal punishment with as much exuberance as it does patriarchy.[99] Though all children are endangered by this cruel regime, boys in particular can be targeted for physical abuse. Note first that, given inverted patriarchy’s understanding of gender, the stakes for parental failure are considerably higher with boys. If parents were to fail to train up their daughter in the way of virtue, she may become a harlot and a homewrecker. But if they were to fail with their son, he would likely follow his natural inclinations to be a rapist and serial killer. Parents will thus have grounds to be much more vigilant and unrelenting in breaking their son’s will.[100] And, since corporal punishment is the preferred method of doing so in Evangelicalism, boys are likely to be beaten regularly and intensely.

Furthermore, gender dynamics for each of the parents contributes to the physical abuse of boys in Evangelicalism. A boy’s beatings will be administered either by his father or by his mother. On the one hand, if it is his father, gender dynamics will likely amplify the seriousness of the beating. To the extent that a father accepts inverted patriarchy he will hate his own masculinity, and, as a result, his son, as another male, can serve as a vulnerable and sanctioned target for his hatred. He can vent his rage on the body of his son while telling himself that he is doing it for the boy’s own good. Moreover, inverted patriarchy’s characterization of males as fearsome and violent will likely encourage a father to strike his sons more brutally than he does his daughters. While gender stereotypes of weakness and fragility may somewhat mollify a father’s blows against his daughter, the idea that his son is essentially wild at heart and yearning for bloodshed will likely encourage him to lash out even more ruthlessly.

On the other hand, if his mother beats him, a boy is still a likely target of gendered rage. In Evangelicalism, wives are put in a subordinate role to their husbands (and other men in the religious community), a position which would understandably be enraging. But, women are forbidden from expressing this anger to their husbands, to their community, or to their male God who is said to have imposed such unjust social arrangements. Yet, according to Evangelicalism, mothers do have authority over their young sons, and, as a result, boys become the only legitimate male target of female rage. Again, boys’ bodies become an external male proxy target for long held resentment against an unjust conception of masculinity. And, just as with fathers, mothers may violently vent their rage on their sons, while telling themselves it is for their own good.

Emotional Incest.

Evangelical boys are also vulnerable to emotional incest. In emotional incest (sometimes called covert incest), a parent uses their child as a surrogate partner to meet the parent’s own emotional needs. Although the child is not physically violated as in overt incest, the relation is nonetheless infused with sexual energy that feels “icky”, confusing, and damaging to the child. The concept of emotional incest was popularized by  psychologist Kenneth Adams who defines it as follows:

“Covert incest occurs when a child becomes the object of a parent’s affection, love, passion, and preoccupation. The parent, motivated by the loneliness and emptiness created by a chronically troubled marriage or relationship, makes the child a surrogate partner. The boundary between caring love and incestuous love is crossed when the relationship with the child exists to meet the needs of the parent rather than those of the child. As the deterioration in the marriage progresses, the dependency on the child grows, and the opposite-sex parent’s response to the child becomes increasingly characterized by desperation, jealousy, and a disregard for personal boundaries. The child becomes an object to be manipulated and used so the parent can avoid the pain and reality of a troubled marriage.”[101]…. “The child feels used and trapped; these are the same feelings overt incest victims experience. Attempts at play, autonomy, and friendship render the child guilt-ridden and lonely, never able to feel okay about his or her needs. Over time, the child becomes preoccupied with the parent’s needs and feels protective and concerned. A psychological marriage between parent and child results; the child becomes the parent’s surrogate spouse…. To the child, the parent’s love feels more confining than feeing, more demanding than giving, and more intrusive than nurturing. The relationship becomes sexually energized and violating, even without the presence of sexual innuendos, sexual touch, or conscious sexual feelings on the part of the parent…The sexual energy or tension created in a relationship of covert incest is more akin to young love than to a caring parent-child love.”[102]

Many have rightly noted the inherent creepiness of Evangelical father daughter purity balls.[103] But people tend to be blind to the fact that boys are also vulnerable to this dynamic. Boys are taught in church that it is their duty to be married and that one learns to be a good husband by treating their mother as they would their wife.

The danger of emotional incest emerges when the relationship between parents is strained, and evangelical teachings virtually guarantee such a strain. When the idealized picture of marriage presented in purity culture fails to live up to actual experience, people can become severely disillusioned and depressed. Moreover, the fact that Evangelicals frame the relationship as one of command and submission, almost guarantees the fact that genuine emotional intimacy will be neglected. Given that evangelical patriarchy defines the relations between man and wife to primarily concern duty and subordination, wives will likely feel emotionally stifled in their relationships even under the best of circumstances and turn to their sons for comfort and emotional support.[104] And, worse yet, when these women find themselves in explicitly abusive relationships, they will likely turn to their sons as protectors and therapists. This can do serious psychological damage to the boys raised in these environments.

Victim blaming

The same structures purity culture has constructed to blame female victims of physical and sexual abuse imprison male victims as well. For both men and women, a desire to protect the reputation of the organization and its leadership trumps the duty to protect the members of the organization and the wider community. The authoritarian structure of these institutions makes it fairly easy to squelch dissent, and “Biblical” standards of righteousness are used to enforce silence. For example, Jesus commands that if you have a complaint against a brother, you must approach him directly. If this fails you should bring with a witness from the church, and if that fails you should bring it to the leaders of the church (Matt 18:15-17).[105] If the person confronted asks for forgiveness at any point, it must be given immediately. Jesus clarifies this point later in the passage:

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors [lit. torturers], till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Matt 18: 21-35).

This passage is applied to victims of abuse to pressure them to forgive their abusers. Worse yet, some churches require that victims also apologize to their abusers for their alleged role in the incident.

The situation becomes even more coercive once it is placed in the context of Evangelical teachings on spiritual warfare. For an unforgiving heart is said to be an open door to demonic possession.  Anderson recounts working with a rape victim named Cindy, and telling her “Cindy, you also need to forgive the man who raped you.” He notes that she, like others who “suffered physical, sexual, or emotional pain at the hands of others”, was reluctant to do this. But he insists that forgiveness is necessary since “it is required by God”[106] and “necessary to avoid entrapment by Satan.” He goes on to claim that:

“I have discovered from my counseling that unforgiveness is the number one avenue Satan uses to gain entrance to believers’ lives. Paul encouraged us to forgive “in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). I have had the privilege to help people around the world find their freedom in Christ. In every case, forgiveness was an issue and in many cases it was the issue that needed to be resolved.”[107]

Thus, he goes on to claim in his steps to freedom in Christ from demonic bondage, that:

“Most of the ground that Satan gains in the lives of Christians is due to unforgiveness. We are warned to forgive others so that Satan cannot take advantage of us (2 Corinthians 2:10, 11). God requires us to forgive others from our hearts or He will turn us over to the tormentors (Matthew 18:34, 35).”[108]

Victims of abuse are in this manner further abused by being told that they must forgive their abusers “from the heart” and agree to not use “the information about their offenses against them in the future”[109] lest they become demon possessed and thereby transformed into baby sacrificing, rapist, serial killers.

In addition, Evangelicalism’s inverted patriarchy sets up additional gendered obstacles to prevent boys from reporting abuse (just as it does for girls). Because boys are portrayed as fierce warriors at heart, reporting physical abuse will likely be taken as a sign of weakness and moral failure. Boys will likely be ashamed to come forward, and, should they do so, would likely be further shamed upon reporting. The report may even be taken as evidence of softness and effeminacy (which Evangelicals associate with homosexuality, something they portray to be an abomination). Hence, reporting physical abuse may simply result in public shaming and subjection to even worse beatings. Evangelical gender stereotypes also militate against boys reporting sexual abuse. Since males are said to be possessed by a monstrous sex drive, boys will likely not be believed to be victims of sexual assault. If the perpetrator is female, the boy will likely be thought to have enjoyed or instigated it. And if the perpetrator is male, the assault will likely be credited to the perpetrator’s overwhelming sex drive.[110] Worse yet, if the abuse was perpetrated by a male, the victim will carry the stigma of being believed to likely be gay and irreparably damaged, since Evangelicals believe that homosexuality is rooted in childhood sexual abuse and that gay people are sexual predators. So, not only is a boy treated as ‘damaged goods’ after reporting abuse, he is also taken to be well on the road to becoming an abomination and child predator himself.

Lost Visions of Manhood

By limiting masculinity to the myth of the American cowboy, Evangelicalism’s inverted patriarchy excludes a variety of other ideals of manhood. At the more obvious level, it eliminates gay, bisexual, queer, and transgendered conceptions of manhood. Likewise, its John Wayne model of manhood also has no place for the handicapped or those perceived as not sufficiently white.[111] Can a blind man identify with a maleness defined by its sexualized visual gaze? Will Native American or Chinese boys identify with the cowboy and the wild west as the loci of masculine virtue? Evangelicals don’t even consider these questions. At a less obvious level, inverted patriarchy also cuts men off from classical conceptions of manhood. I’ll briefly consider three of them here.

1. Spiritual Virility.

Evangelicals, with their passional conception of masculinity and consequent emphasis on obedience, lose sight of the traditional concept of spiritual virility. Traditional priesthoods took themselves to operate in the realm of “pure powers” or “numen”. “The numen, unlike the notion of deus (as it came to be latter understood), is not a being or a person, but a sheer power that is capable of producing effects, of acting, and of manifesting itself.”[112] The priesthood, according to this view, is essential to the social order because it has mastered the rites capable of directing these powers. “The rite was… a ‘divine technique,’ a determining action upon invisible forces and inner states similar in spirit to what today is obtained through physical forces and states of matter. The priest was simply a person who, by virtue of his qualification and the virtus intrinsic to the rite itself, was capable of producing results through this technique.”[113] This portrait of priestly masculinity can be seen, for example, in the Rig Veda. The poem, The Origins of Sacred Speech, declares:

“Brhaspati! When they set in motion the first beginning of speech, giving names, their most pure and perfectly guarded secret was revealed through love. (2) when the wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve, then friends recognized their friendships. A good sign was placed on their speech. (3) through the sacrifice they traced the path of speech and found it inside the sages. They held it and portioned it out of many; together the seven singers praised it. (4) One who looked did not see speech, and another who listens does not hear it. It reveals itself to someone as a loving wife, beautifully dressed, reveals her body to her husband. (5) One person, they said, has grown awkward and heavy in this friendship; they no longer urge him forward in the contests. He lives with falsehood like a millkless cow, for the speech that he has heard has no fruit no flower. (6) A man that abandons a friend who has learned with him no longer has a share in speech. What he does hear he hears in vain, for he does not know the path of good action. (7) Friends have eyes and ears, but their flashes of insight are not equal. Some are like ponds that reach only to the mouth or shoulder; others are like ponds that one could bathe in. (8) When the intuitions of the mind are shaped in the heart, when Brahmins perform sacrifices together as friends, some are left behind for lack of knowledge, while others surpass them with the power to praise. (9) Those who move neither near nor far, who are not real Brahmins nor pressers of the Soma; using speech in a bad way, they weave on a weft of rags, without understanding. (10) all his friends rejoice in the friend who emerges with fame and victory in the contest. He saves them from error and gives them food. He is worthy to be pushed forward to win the prize. (11) One sits bringing to blossom the flower of the verses. Another sings a song in the Skavari metre. One, the Brahmin, proclaims the knowledge o the ancient ways. Another lays out the measure of the sacrifice.”[114]

Here we have a conception of manhood defined by speech, a speech rooted in love. It is speech that makes friendship (and thus society) possible, and sets the standards by which a man may be judged. A man of false speech is a man who abandons his friends, and, among those friends who retain speech, speech allows them to be judged according to their depth of insight. But, rather than pulling them apart as enemies, such a competition in wisdom draws friends even closer as the victor’s friends rejoice with him. It is his mastery of speech, and his “knowledge of the ancient ways” that grants the Brahmin his special status. “The brahmana caste, consisting as it did of superior natures, could tower over everyone else since it ruled over the power of the rite, or of Brahman, understood in this context as the vital and primordial principle. The ‘gods’ themselves, when they are not personifications of the ritual action (that is, beings who are actualized or renewed by this action), are spiritual forces that bow before this caste.”[115] This, then, is a far cry from the ideal of cringing servility recommended by Evangelicalism.

2. Genius

In more modern times a similar ideal is found in the concept of the genius, another view of manhood ruled out by inverted patriarchy. Since man, from a classical perspective, is characterized by the power to bring erstwhile unconscious contents to consciousness by exposing them to the light of reason, the genius, one possessing the most developed consciousness, would constitute the ideal man. The genius, possessed of a lucid mind, can see within himself something new and express it in the world. Because his vision is grounded in direct perception, the result cannot be explained by simply enumerating a set of rules for its construction. Kant explains:

“Everyone agrees that genius is entirely opposed to the spirit of imitation. Now since learning is nothing but imitation, even the greatest aptitude for learning, facility for learning (capacity) as such, still does not count as genius. But even if one thinks or writes for himself, and does not merely take up what others have thought, indeed even if he invents a great deal for art and science, this is still not a proper reason for calling such a great mind (in contrast to someone who, because he can never do more than merely learn and imitate, is called a blockhead) a genius, since just this sort of thing could also have been learned, and thus still lies on the natural path of inquiry and reflection in accordance with rules, and is not specifically distinct from that which can be acquired with effort by means of imitation.”[116]

The genius will then be characterized by a profound self-knowledge flowing from a developed consciousness. The genius must have acute sensory faculties, but, even more importantly, he must have an acute awareness of those sensations and their significance. “The measure of genius is not to be taken from the acuteness of the sense organ, but from that of the perceiving brain.”[117] In virtue of this more universal perception, the genius can set forth the vision and values that shape a civilization.

“The genius is not a critic of language, but its creator, as he is the creator of all the mental achievements which are the material of culture and which make up the objective mind, the spirit of the peoples. The ‘timeless’ men are those who make history, for history can be made only by those who are not floating with the stream. It is only those who are unconditioned by time who have real value, and whose productions have an enduring force. And the events that become forces of culture become so only because they have an enduring value.”[118]

Classical cultures, then, would set forth philosophers and artists as model men to be emulated. For it is the genius that can grasp the eternal and give it material shape in society.[119] Genius would represent “a kind of higher masculinity” because its consciousness would have attained “the greatest, most limpid clearness and distinctness.”[120] Such a picture is again ruled out from inverted patriarchy with its commandments to instinctively turn away from all unapproved thoughts, feelings, and desires. The Evangelical ideal is that of an extremely limited consciousness, rather than a genius.

3. The Great Man

Finally, for all its Hollywood bluster, Evangelicalism’s inverted patriarchy excludes the concept of the great world historical man from its purview. Thomas Carlyle, himself a Christian (though not one recognizable to Evangelicals), believed that history was guided by the actions of great men. Carlyle contends that emergence of great men is what separates ages of cultural decline and from those of cultural renaissance. He notes:

“Alas, we have known Times call loudly enough for their great man; but not find him when they called! He was not there; Providence had not sent him; the Time, calling its loudest, had to go down to confusion and wreck because he would not come when called.

            For if we will think of it, no Time need have gone to ruin, could it have found a man great enough, a man wise and good enough: wisdom to discern truly what the Time wanted, valor to lead it on the right road thither; these are the salvation of any Time. But I liken common languid Times, with their unbelief, distress, perplexity, with their languid doubting characters and embarrassed circumstances, impotently crumbling down into ever worse distress towards final ruin;–all this I liken to dry dead fuel, waiting for the lightening out of Heaven that shall kindle it. The great man, with his free force direct out of God’s own hand, is the lightening. His word is the wise healing word which all can believe in. All blazes round him now, when he has once struck on it, into fire like his own. The dry moldering sticks are thought to have called him forth. They did not want him greatly; but as to calling him forth–. Those are critics of small vision, I think, who cry: ‘See, is it not the sticks that made the fire?’ No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men. There is no sadder symptom of a generation than such general blindness to the spiritual lightening, with faith only in the heap of barren dead fuel. It is the last consummation of unbelief. In all epochs of the world’s history, we shall find the Great Man to have been indispensable savior of his epoch;–the lightning, without which the fuel never would have burnt. The History of the World…was the Biography of Great Men.”[121]

Just as with the concept of genius, note that great men are here defined by their level of consciousness. These men are marked by their wisdom and goodness, not their zeal for bloodshed. And, though Carlyle likens them to lightning, the blaze they cast is effected by “the wise healing word[s]” they utter. Emerson presents a similar view when he claims:

“Man is that noble endogenous plant which grows, like the palm, from within outward. His own affair, though impossible to others, he can open with celerity and in sport. It is easy to sugar to be sweet and to nitre to be salt. We take a great deal of pains to waylay and entrap that which of itself will fall into our hands. I count him a great man who inhabits a higher sphere of thought, into which other men rise with labor and difficulty; he has but to open his eyes to see things in a true light and in large relations, whilst they must make painful corrections and keep a vigilant eye on many sources of error. His service to us is of like sort. It costs a beautiful person no exertion to paint her image on our eyes; yet how splendid is that benefit! It costs no more for a wise soul to convey his quality to other men. And every one can do his best thing easiest. “Peu de moyens, beaucoup d’effet.” He is great who is what he is from nature, and who never reminds us of others.”[122]

The great man is marked by his wisdom, naturalness, and elevated consciousness. Thus, he expresses himself through history in a variety of roles such as the poet, the reformer, and the man of letters, none of which are countenanced by inverted patriarchy. All these roles presuppose a sincerity of character anathema to Evangelicals, since it is grounded in an uncompromising relationship to truth. According to Carlyle, the great man’s

“sincerity does not depend on himself; he cannot help being sincere! The great Fact of Existence is great to him. Fly as he will, he cannot get out of the awful presence of this Reality. His mind is so made; he is great by that, first of all. Fearful and wonderful, real as Life, real as Death, is this Universe to him. Though all men should forget its truth, and walk in a vain show, he cannot. At all moments the Flame image glares in upon him; undeniable, there, there!—I wish you to take this as my primary definition of a Great Man. A little man may have this, it is competent to all men that God has made: but a Great Man cannot be without it.” [123]

It is in virtue of his relation to the truth that he can set forth the words by which to anchor a society through the ages. Evangelicalism can countenance neither such a relation to the Real unmediated by Christian dogma nor the intensity of vision emerging from that relation. Evangelicals have no room for the poetic genius of a Dante, “his greatness…in all senses, concentrated … into fiery emphasis and depth. He is world-great not because he is worldwide, but because he is world-deep. Through all objects he pierces as it were down into the heart of Being.”[124] It is in virtue of this that “Dante speaks to the noble, the pure and great, in all times and places. Neither does he grow obsolete…Dante burns as a pure star, fixed there in the firmament, at which the great and the high of all ages kindle themselves.”[125] Evangelicalism has no use for men such as these.

Conclusion

In light of corrosive effects of Evangelicalism’s inverted patriarchy on the male psyche and its constrictive definition of manhood, the bewildered contempt with which classical pagan world greeted early Christianity becomes understandable. Indeed, this might be a profoundly healthy reaction to Evangelicalism and other debased versions of faith. When considering the squabbles between various forms of popular theism, the philosopher Celsus remarked, “I can only say that these sects remind me of a cluster of bats or ants escaping from a nest, a bunch of frogs holding council in a swamp, or a clutch of worms assembling in the muck: all of them disagreeing over who is the worst sinner. Thus do they say ‘God shows himself to us first–and he ignores the affairs of the world in order to give us, his chosen, his full attention; he sends his messengers to us alone, and never stops sending them and seeking that we may dwell with him forever.’ And the wormlike Christians say, ‘Well, you are wrong, because in the rankings God is first and we fall next since we are made exactly in God’s image and all things have been put under us–earth, water, air, stars, and the rest–everything exists for our benefit and to serve only us. Since some remain outside the fold, God will send his son to consume the unrighteous so that we–the saved–can have eternal life with him.’…. Would not such assertions be more forgivable coming from worms and frogs than from these sects in their petty squabbles.”[126]

It’s almost as if Evangelicalism was designed to take up the test between Christianity and the Greco-Roman tradition proposed Emperor Julian:

“But you yourselves know, it seems to me, the very different effect on the intelligence of your writings as compared with ours; and that from studying yours no man could attain to excellence or even to ordinary goodness, whereas from studying ours every man would become better than before, even though he were altogether without natural fitness. But when a man is naturally well endowed, and moreover receives the education of our literature, he becomes actually a gift of the gods to mankind, either by kindling the light of knowledge, or by founding some kind of political constitution, or by routing numbers of his country’s foes, or even by travelling far over the earth and far by sea, and thus proving himself a man of heroic mold. . .

Now this would be a clear proof: Choose out children from among you all and train and educate them in your scriptures, and if when they come to manhood they prove to have nobler qualities than slaves, then you may believe that I am talking nonsense and am suffering from spleen. Yet you are so misguided and foolish that you regard those chronicles of yours as divinely inspired, though by their help no man could ever become wiser or braver or better than he was before; while, on the other hand, writings by whose aid men can acquire courage, wisdom and justice, these you ascribe to Satan and to those who serve Satan!”[127]

As to the results of this test, I will let the reader decide.

Peter Yong, Ph.D.


[1] Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational trans. Harvey (London: Oxford University Press, 1936), 20.

[2] See David P. Wright, “Holiness (Old Testament)” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (Yale University Press).

[3] See, for example, https://www.christiantoday.com/article/wayne-grudem-has-changed-his-mind-on-the-trinity-just-not-enough-say-critics/102617.htm

[4] Linda Klein aptly observes “Though one’s place in that binary [between heaven and hell] is technically supposed to be determined by one’s belief system, let’s face it–you can’t see whether she really believes these things or has just memorized a bunch of talking points. So if you want to assess who’s really a Christian and who’s not–and lots of people do–you need a proxy, some externally measurable quality that is deemed representative of the person’s internal commitment. Among single people in the church, one of the most popular proxies is sex.” Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free (New York: Atria, 2018), 10. Likewise, Kristen du Mez notes “In truth, what it means to be an evangelical has always depended on the world beyond the faith. In recent years, evangelical leaders themselves have come to recognize (and frequently lament) that a “pop culture” definition has usurped “a proper historical and theological” one, such that today many people count themselves “evangelical” because they watch Fox News, consider themselves religious, and vote Republican. Frustrated with this confusion of “real” and “supposed” evangelicals, evangelical elites have taken pollsters and pundits to task for carelessly conflating the two. But the problem goes beyond sloppy categorization. Among evangelicals, high levels of theological illiteracy mean that many “evangelicals” hold views traditionally defined as heresy, calling into question the centrality of theology to evangelicalism generally. Moreover, many who do subscribe to these distinctives do not in fact identify as evangelical. This is the case especially when it comes to Christians of color: just 25 percent of African Americans who subscribe to all four distinctives identify as evangelical.” Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (New York: Norton, 2020), 8.

[5] Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne, 9.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 9-10

[9] Ibid., 11.

[10] Ibid., 116 and 171.

[11] Janet Heimlich attributes this quote to Johnathan Edwards in Breaking their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment (New York: Prometheus, 2011), 100.

[12] Heimlich, Breaking Their Will, 101. Likewise, “In full agreement, syndicated conservative Christian parenting columnist John Rosemond writes in his popular Parenting by the Book: Biblical Wisdom for raising your child, ‘Grandma knew that every child came into the world bearing a nature that was already corrupt, depraved; that each and every child was a natural-born criminal; and that to steer the little criminal in a pro-social direction required a combination of powerful love and powerful discipline.’ Rosemond goes on to refer to a crying and demanding child as ‘the Spawn of Satan’ and ‘the demon-child’” (100).

[13] Aristotle, Politics, I.iv 1254b, Revised Oxford Trans.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Aristotle, Generation of Animals, trans. Peck, I.ii 716a. Similarly, “the male provides the ‘form’ and the ‘principle of the movement,’ the female provides the body, in other words, the material” (I.xx 729a).

[16] Ibid., II.i 732a. He also identifies the production of the soul with the male, and the production of the body with the female. “The female always provides the material, the male provides that which fashions the material into shape; this, in our view, is the specific characteristic of each of the sexes: that is what it means to be male or to be female. Hence, necessity requires that the female should provide the physical part, i.e., a quantity of material, but not that the male should do so, since necessity does not require that the tools should reside in the product that is being made, nor that the agent which uses them should do so. Thus the physical part, the body, comes from the female, and the Soul from the male, since the Soul is the essence of a particular body” (II.iv 739a).

[17] Aristotle, Metaphysics I.5.25 Rev. Oxford Trans.

[18] Julius Evola, Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex (Rochester: Inner Traditions, 1991), 118.

[19] Ibid., 119.

[20] Ibid., 130.

[21] Aristotle, History of Animals.

[22] I suspect that part of the story will be found in Evangelicalism’s doctrine of original sin. Evangelicals appear to believe that a classical gender hierarchy held before the fall, with male reason ruling over female passion. But, in succumbing to the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve each acted against their gender role. Adam, overcome by passion for his wife, obeyed her and ate the fruit. And Eve, attempting to use her reason autonomously, was deceived by the serpent and ate the fruit. See 1 Tim 2:11-15 and Katherine Joyce, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (Boston: Beacon, 2009), 49-50. As a result, humans inherited a sinful nature now characterized by what Evangelicals believe to be gendered vices: men overcome by passion and women tempted to reason and autonomy.

[23] John Eldridge, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul (Nashville: Nelson, 2001), 3-4.

[24] It is telling that to Eldridge’s mind, such grandeur is akin to “the mall.” “Moses does not encounter the living God at the mall. He finds him…somewhere out in the deserts of Sinai, a long way from the comforts of Egypt.” Ibid., 4.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., 5.

[27] Ibid., 6. Citing Robert Bly.

[28] Eldridge, Wild at Heart, 11. Another favorite of Eldridge and other Evangelicals is the figure of William Wallace from the movie Braveheart. See 23 and 28. For a movement that claims to hate the liberal elites and gay agendas of Hollywood, Evangelicals draw a surprising amount of their worldview from it. Eldridge claims that the archetype of the cowboy arises even in earliest boyhood : ““There’s a photo on my wall of a little boy about five years old, with a crew cut, big cheeks, and an impish grin….It’s Christmas morning, 1964, and I’ve just opened what may have been the best present any boy received on any Christmas ever–a set of two 9 pearl-handled six shooters, complete with black leather holsters, a red cowboy shirt with two wild mustangs embroidered on either breast, shiny black boots, red bandanna, and straw hat. I’ve donned the outfit and won’t take it off for weeks because, you see, this is not a ‘costume’ at all; it’s an identity…. My thumbs are tucked inside my gun belt and my chest is out because I am armed and dangerous. Bad guys beware: This town’s not big enough for the both of us.” Ibid., 10.

[29] Compare this to Carlyle’s contrast between Shakespeare and those British adventurers who conquered the Indian Empire. “Indian Empire, or no Indian Empire; we cannot do without Shakespeare! Indian empire will go, at any rate, some day; but this Shakespeare does not go, he lasts forever with us…. Here, I say, is an English King, whom no time or chance, Parliament or combination of Parliaments, can dethrone! This King Shakespeare, does not he shine, in crowned sovereignty, over us all, as the noblest, gentlest, yet strongest of rallying signs; indestructible; really more valuable in that point of view than any other means or appliance whatsoever.” Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero Worship, and the Heroic in History, Lecture 3: Poet. He makes similar claims for Homer and Dante when he states “Europe has made much; great cities, great empires, encyclopedias, creeds, bodies of opinion and practice: but it has made little of the class of Dante’s Thought. Homer yet is veritably present face to face with every open soul of us; and Greece, where is it? Desolate for thousands of years; away, vanished; a bewildered heap of stones and rubbish, the life and existence of it all gone. Like a dream; like the dust of King Agamemnon! Greece was; Greece, except in the words it spoke, is not.” Ibid.

[30] Odyssey, IX.105-115, trans. Lattimore.

[31] Ibid., 172-176.

[32] Ibid., 187-192 and 213-215.

[33] Eldridge, Wild at heart, 10. One might think that civilization itself is one such cooperative game requiring the relational interdependence that Eldridge so despises.

[34] Ibid., 25-26.

[35] Eldridge remarks on the utility of his gender ideology as follows: “One day, you might just need that boy to defend you.” “Those union soldiers who charged the stone walls at Bloody Angle; the Allied troops that hit the beaches at Normandy or the sands of Iwo Jima–what would they have done without this deep part of their heart? Life needs a man to be fierce–and fiercely devoted” (10).

[36] Aeneid VI, trans. Mackail.

[37] Aristotle, History of Animals.

[38] Schopenhauer, On Women in Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays Vol. 2. Trans. and ed. Del Caro and Janaway (Cambrdige: Cambridge University Press, 2015), § 368.

[39] Otto Weininger, Sex and Character, 49.

[40] Klein, Pure, 10.

[41] Ibid. I’m not sure that this assessment is accurate. When I was growing up I was in several groups where the food metaphor was applied to men as well. Likewise, the purity concerns about defiling oneself are echoed, from a male perspective, by Josh Harris in his I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 1997).

[42] Henceforth, the author will simply be cited as Arterburn for convenience.

[43] Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey, Every Man’s Battle: Every Man’s Guide to Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2000), 100-102.

[44] Ibid., 100.

[45] Ibid., 109.

[46] Ibid., 109-110.

[47] Ibid., 27-28. Similarly, he claims that his eyes “were ravenous heat seekers searching the horizon, locking on any target with sensual heat.” Ibid, 34.

[48] Ibid., 65.

[49] Weininger, Sex and Character, 41-42.

[50] Ibid., 45.

[51] Arterburn, Every Man’s Battle, 113.

[52] Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne, 201.

[53] Artenburn, Every Man’s Battle, 116.

[54] Eldridge, Wild at Heart, 140.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Arterburn, Every Man’s Battle, 84.

[57] Ibid., 116.

[58] Ibid, 127.

[59] George Orwell, 1984.

[60] Schopenhauer, On Women, § 364.

[61] Ibid., § 371

[62] Chris Hedges characterizes this double bind as follows: “Hypermasculinity becomes a way to compensate, especially since the unspoken truth is that Christian men are required to have a personal, loving relationship with a male deity and surrender their will to a male dominated authoritarian church. Submission to church authority, after all, is a potent form of emasculation. It entails a surrendering of conscience and personal control and deadens emotions and feelings. Glorified acts of force and violence against outsiders, against non-believers, compensate for this unquestioning submission. The domination men are encouraged to practice in the home over women and children becomes a reflection of the domination they are taught to endure outside the home.” American Fascists: the Christian Right and the War on America (New York: Free Press, 2006), 80.

[63] Klein, Pure, 13.

[64] It is interesting to note here that the stringency of the admonition “not even a hint” which is crucial for the purity teachings of Every Man’s Battle is not contained in other, more literal, translations of the passage. Arterburn, for example, claims that “if there’s a single bible verse that captures God’s standard for sexual purity; this is it. And it compels this question: relation to God’s standard, is there even a hint of sexual impurity in your life?” 26.

[65] E.g. sexual behavior is wrong when the parties involved in it fail to consent to it.

[66] Arterburn, Every Man’s Battle, 33-34. “Sometimes a person’s innocent phrase…struck me with a double sexual meaning. I would chuckle, but I felt unease. Why do these double entendres come to my mind so easily? Should a Christian mind create them so nimbly?”

[67] Ibid., 41. “My mind continued to daydream and fantasize over old girlfriends. These were more than a hint of sexual immorality…Because I dreamed of being with other women, and rather enjoyed mentally recalling past sexual conquests, I knew I was a hypocrite, and I continued feeling distant from God.”

[68] Ibid., 47. “No, we won’t be bringing Forrest Gump into our living room,’ I responded. Taken aback, Mike asked, ‘Why? It was a great movie!’ ‘Well, do you remember that scene at the beginning where Sally Field has sex with the principal to get her son into the ‘right’ school?’ ‘Uh?.’ ‘And how about those bare breasts at the New Year’s party? The nude on-stage guitar performance? And in the end, when Forrest finally ‘got the girl’ in the sex scene, she conceived a child out of wedlock. These aren’t the types of things I want my kids to see! Mike slumped into his chair. ‘I guess I’ve been watching movies for so long that I didn’t even notice those things.’”

[69] Ibid., 56, 110. “Masturbation while fantasizing about another woman besides your wife or ‘fantasy intercourse’ while dreaming is the same as doing it. Remember the standard Jesus set?” 110.

[70] Ibid., 50. “Joe told us he loves women’s beach volleyball. ‘At night, I’ve had shockingly vivid dreams with these women,’ he confided. ‘Some have been so exhilarating and so real that I wake up the next morning certain that I’ve been in bed with them. Heavy with guilt, I wonder where my life is, sure she has left me over this affair and wondering how I could have done such a thing. Finally, as the cobwebs clear, it slowly dawns on me that it was just a dream. But even then I feel uneasy. You want to know why? Because while I know it was just a dream, I’m not at all certain it wasn’t some form of adultery.”

[71] Ibid., 52. See also 55, and 44. “The affairs? I’d simply traded the physical liaisons for mental affairs and daydreams—affairs of the eyes and heart. The sin remained because I’d never really changed, never rejected sexual sin, never escaped sexual slavery. I’d merely exchanged masters.”

[72] Ibid., 144.

[73] Ibid., 188.

[74] Ibid., 65.

[75] Ibid. “Like any addiction, sex addiction is progressive. It’s like ‘athlete’s foot of the mind,’ as one person described it. It never goes away. It’s always asking to be scratched, promising relief. To scratch, however, is to cause pain and to intensify the itch”, 57.

[76] Ibid., 54.

[77] Neil Anderson, A Way of Escape: Freedom from Sexual Strongholds (Eugene: Harvest House,1998), Chapter 1.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Ibid.

[80] Mark Bubeck, The Adversary: The Christian Versus Demon Activity (Chicago: Moody, 1975), 35.

[81] This idea was especially prevalent during the so called Satanic panic in the 80s and 90s, but it never really left evangelical culture. To see the manipulation and creation of dubious memories involved see, Lawrence Wright, Remembering Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory (New York: Vintage, 1994).

[82] https://youtu.be/64c_JTHzFto see esp. min. 21-24.

[83] Neil Anderson, A Way of Escape, Chapter 4.

[84] Neil Anderson, The Bondage Breaker (Eugene: Harvest House, 1993), 202-203. Anderson writes similarly elsewhere, “I have found it necessary for all sexual sins to be renounced. I usually have such people pray, asking the Lord to reveal to their minds all the sexual sins and partners with whom they have been involved, whether they were victim or the perpetrator. If you are in sexual bondage, what can you do? … ask the Lord to reveal to your mind every time you used your body as an instrument of unrighteousness, including all sexual sins…. Verbally respond to each offense as it is recalled by saying, ‘I confess (whatever the sin was), and I renounce that use of my body.’ … if you think this process might take too long, try not doing it and see how long the rest of your life will seem as you drag on in defeat.” Released from Bondage loc cit. In the Bondage Maker pt. 3. http://www.equip.org/PDF/DA083.pdf

[85] This is attributed to the so called Christian comedian Mike Warnke, who was popular in Evangelicalism for fabricating stories of how he was once a high priest of Satanism before giving his life to Jesus. https://www.echonyc.com/~jkarpf/home/warnke.html

[86] Arterburn, Every Man’s Battle, 196.

[87] Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Recovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine (New York: Harper One, 1991), 116.

[88] Ibid.

[89] See, for example, Dutton and Aaron “Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety” in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (30)4: 510-517 (1974).

[90] Worse yet, Evangelicals insist that the emotion of fear must also be renounced since it also gives the devil a foothold to possess one. See Anderson, Bondage Breaker, 209. “When fear is controlling a believer, the Spirit of God is not, and Satan has the upper hand. Fear of the enemy and faith in God are mutually exclusive.” See also Bubeck, The Adversary, 78-79.

[91] https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/male-circumcision-fgm-baby-child-abuse-body-rights-medical-hygiene-a9011896.html

[92] Morris Sorrells, “A History of Circumcision in the United States: A Physician’s Perspective in Male and Female Circumcision” in Male and Female Circumcision (New York: Kluwer, 1999), 331.

[93] Ibid., 332.

[94] Ibid.

[95] Loc cit, ibid., 332.

[96] Robert Darby A Surgical Temptation: The Demonization of the Foreskin and the Rise of Circumcision in Britain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 4. See also Leonard Glick Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

[97] “Now, some people are pregnant in body, and for this reason turn more to women and pursue love in that way, providing themselves through childbirth with immortality and remembrance and happiness, as they think for all time to come; while others are pregnant in soul—because there surely are those who are even more pregnant in their souls than in their bodies, and these are pregnant with what is fitting for a soul to bear and bright to birth. And what is fitting? Wisdom and the rest of virtue, which all poets beget, as well as all the craftsmen who are said to be creative. But by far the greatest and most beautiful part of wisdom deals with the proper ordering of cities and households, and that is called moderation and justice. When someone has been pregnant with these in his soul from early youth, while he is still a virgin, and, having arrived at the proper age, desires to beget and give birth, he too will certainly go about seeking the beauty in which he would beget; for he will never beget in anything ugly. Since he is pregnant, then, he is much more drawn to bodies that are beautiful than to those that are ugly; and if he also has the luck to find a soul that is beautiful and noble and well formed, he is even more drawn to this combination; such a man makes him instantly teem with ideas and arguments about virtue—the qualities a virtuous man should have and the customary activities in which he should engage; and so he tries to educate him. In my view, you see, when he makes contact with someone beautiful and keeps company with him, he conceives and gives birth to what he has been carrying inside him for ages. And whether they are together or apart, he remembers that beauty. And in common with him he nurtures the newborn; such people, therefore, have much more to share than do the parents of human children, and have a firmer bond of friendship, because the children in whom they have a share are more beautiful and more immortal. Everyone would rather have such children than human ones, and would look up to Homer, Hesiod, and other good poets with envy and admiration for the offspring they have left behind—offspring, which, because they are immortal themselves, provide their parents with immortal glory and remembrance. For example, she said, those are the sort of children Lycurgus left behind in Sparta as the saviors of Sparta and virtually all of Greece. Among you the honor goes to Solon for his creation of your laws. Other men in other places everywhere, Greek or barbarian, have brought a host of beautiful deeds into the light and begotten every kind of virtue. Already many shrines have sprung up to honor them for their immortal children, which hasn’t happened yet to anyone for human offspring.” Symposium, 209a-e, trans. Cooper.

[98] Loc cit. Arterburn, Every Man’s Battle, 104.

[99] See James Dobson Dare to Discipline and The Strong Willed Child, and Michael and Debi Pearl’s To Train Up a Child.

[100] Heimlich, Breaking Their Will.

[101] Kenneth Adams, Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners (Deerfield: Health Communications, 2011), 14-15.

[102] Ibid., 15-16.

[103] For instance, https://www.mic.com/articles/86149/the-creepy-way-fathers-across-the-country-are-controlling-their-daughters-virginity

[104] The ex-fundamentalist blogger, Sierra, makes this point here https://phoenixandolivebranch.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/emotional-incest-the-mamas-boy-and-the-other-woman/

[105] Paul likewise forbids people from bringing suits before secular authorities 1 Cor 6:1-11. All matters must be determined within the church–the very institution which is perpetuating the abuse.

[106] He cites Jesus’ remarks after the Lord’s Prayer that “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (Matt. 6:14-15).

[107] Neil Anderson, Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ (Bloomington: Bethany House), Chapter 11, 181-182.

[108] Anderson, Bondage Breaker, 196.

[109] Ibid., 197.

[110] For example, when Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, was exposed as having hired a male prostitute and used cocaine on a regular basis, fellow Evangelical leader Mark Driscoll treated it as an inevitable result of ‘wives who really let themselves go’ and were not ‘sexually available’. See Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne, 287.

[111] Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne, 311-312. “For some men, a wild, aggressive masculinity has always been untenable. One man with a physical disability recalls feeling that there was no place for him in the evangelicalism of the 2000s. If you weren’t ‘a sports or hunting fanatic in an evangelical church,’ your position was marginal, as he put it. Another man, too, recounted that those who weren’t particularly athletic, who weren’t looking to ‘jump across ravines and climb rock walls’ could feel like inauthentic men and second-class Christians.”

[112] Julius Evola, Revolt Against The Modern World (Rochester: Inner Traditions, 1995), 42.

[113] Ibid., 43.

[114] The Rig Veda, trans. Doniger (New York: Penguin, 1981), 61-62.

[115] Evola, Revolt, 43.

[116] Kant, Critique of Judgement, (New York: Cambridge, 2000), § 47.

[117] Weininger, Sex and Character, 54.

[118] Ibid, 71.

[119] “I am inclined to think that only great artists and great philosophers (amongst the latter, I include, above all, the great religious teachers) have proved a claim to genius.” Ibid., 71.

[120] Ibid., 54.

[121] Ibid.

[122] Emerson, Uses of Great Men in Representative Men.

[123] Ibid.

[124] Ibid.

[125] Carlyle, On Heroes Lecture 3: Poet.

[126] Celsus, On the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians trans. Hoffmann (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 79

[127] Julian, Against the Galileans, trans Wright.

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