As my husband and I discussed the news about Rowan County Kentucky clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to obey the law she vowed to uphold as an elected government official, two main thoughts popped into my head.
First, it is a complete travesty of government that she could not be fired for failure to do her job, due to various administrative red-tape-hoopla that makes my head swim. It should not be so difficult or expensive or time-consuming to ensure hired officials do the jobs they promised to do.
The average American has little to no job security, and can be fired at the drop of a hat with or without cause, the employee may never know. Yet Kim Davis, as are all other elected officials, maintain not only a high salary but pretty stable job security, even when they refuse to do their job! Bernie Sanders, let’s get on this.
Second, most of the media attention and public comments went toward Davis, her personal beliefs, her hypocritical stance as an elected government official who wanted to keep her salary and her morals, her arrest, her “martyrdom”, and release. A few online news sources hit upon the topic of Davis’ beliefs and where those come from, including the general practices of the denomination she adheres to, Apostolic Pentecostalism. My concern though, was with the “man behind the curtain”, the one pulling her strings and teaching her what to do, and coaching her on what to say. After all, by her own claim, Davis had only been “born again” 4 years earlier. I tried looking up who Kim Davis’ pastor was, and did find his name.
Daniel Carter is the senior pastor of Rock Solid Apostolic Church in Moorehead, KY, and has only made one public statement to date, through Christian News Network. In this interview, he talks a lot about the constitutional rights of Mrs. Davis being stolen because “she was in jail because she stood by her convictions”. I don’t suppose it ever dawned on Pastor Carter that abortion-clinic bombers likewise go to jail for the same reasons, that terrorists go to jail for standing by their convictions, that lots of people who do wrong do so with sincere beliefs in their own righteousness.
Kim Davis put herself in a compromising situation, promised to uphold the law of Kentucky, then promptly broke a law, knowingly, willingly, joyfully. Kim Davis has a right to her beliefs, she does not have the right to obstruct the law. Without the ability to fire her, without her willing resignation, the judge who held her in contempt was absolutely correct to do so.
Still, what is more telling than all the demonstrations, lawsuits, media coverage, and public commentary, is simply this: Sr. Pastor Daniel Carter has gone silent as has his church. The church’s website has been shut down for days, maybe weeks. The church phone is not receiving calls. The Christian News Network article states,
“[Pastor Carter] made it clear that he did not want to the discuss the church’s teachings or beliefs, nor Kim Davis herself, and rather desired to accentuate the freedoms that all Americans are losing.“Kim Davis doesn’t want this to be about her. This is about freedom of religion in this country,” Carter said. “This is not about our church. This is not about any church. This is not [even] about Christianity.”
But of course it is, Pastor Cater! This issue solely concerns your teachings and beliefs. Those are the entire reason Kim Davis and her actions were brought to the spotlight to begin with. I am certain Pastor Carter knows all this however, so what is he trying hide?
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*Little disclaimer: By “mature” I mean as physically developed and/or experienced in life as adults. I am not referring to responsibility, which many teens are better at than some adults.
I was just 16 but I knew it was love, and my boyfriend, also 16, and I secretly but seriously discussed our future. It was my 18th birthday when my new boyfriend and Sr. year highschool sweetheart proposed to me at our favorite park. I was 18 still when we married and my 19th birthday came one week later. My husband was barely 20.
Over the past 13 years of marriage, we have occasionally reflected on the past. On this issue, we both have come to the conclusion that marrying so young is not something we would now recommend to others. We were in love, but we were not prepared. We were not prepared financially, reproductive-wise, and he was not prepared mentally. Until my new husband kindly walked me through the steps, I had never paid a bill before. I didn’t know how to cook beyond pasta salad and boxed mac and cheese. We had no long-term plans, no goals other than my determination to get my Bachelor’s (it took 7 years, but I finally did).
We were strongly encouraged to marry fast in order to avoid living or falling into sin (sex), and we happily and naively agreed for the sake of our spiritual health and physical desires. It never occurred to our superiors/supporters that if we couldn’t be mature and responsible sexually before marriage, we weren’t mature enough for marriage. Our best friends and family were devastated and deeply concerned. They thought we were being way too hasty.
We struggled much for the first few years, forced to grow up very quickly and alone, for our friends were still in college when we began having babies. Not knowing how to budget, how to pay bills, or how to plan for long-term savings, and neither of us having a college degree, we suffered financially. Some decisions we made so long ago still haunt us today. We were encouraged not to take birth control since they were “full of toxins” and “not natural”, but to try the spit and microscope method of birth control instead. Wouldn’t you know it? Within 7 months I was pregnant.
Underage Marriage in the United States?
I was skeptical when a spiritual abuse blog I follow, posted an article on their FB page about child marriages in certain fundamental, homeschool, patriarchal, Christian circles. I knew it happened in many developing countries. I knew about the practice in fundamental Mormon (FLDS) churches out West. I knew it was a growing issue in the US due to the influx of immigrant cultures, but surely this article was grossly exaggerating the occurrence of underage marriages in these Protestant Christian groups. The article only highlighted two instances of child marriage, and both happened in the same family with a mother (married at 15) and her daughter (married at 16).
I asked for more information, and the moderator of the Spiritual Sounding Board Facebook page generously provided me with 3 more articles. While none of them could make a convincing case for the actual practice of child marriages, the positive mindset among several general commenters, the remarks of Kevin Swanson and Dave Bruehner-two big names in the conservative Christian homeschooling movement, and even Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty”-fame, began to show a disturbing trend.
There is a legal, and for some, ethical, difference between underage child marriages which occur between 12-17 (more typically, 15-17) years of age, and young or early marriage, which happens between 18-22 years of age, generally speaking. While the latter has been increasingly pushed by some in Evangelical circles to prevent or reduce sin, when the former does occur or is promoted, many times it is for very similar reasons.
Early/Young Marriage, 18-22
Today there is “a sort of attitude … magical thinking, that if we get you married, then you’ll be fine and we don’t have to worry about anti-poverty programs… we don’t have to worry about child care.” Scholars, pundits and other policy elites need to end their magical thinking about marriage and acknowledge the widespread nature of marital poverty and economic hardship. Married Without Means, p. 3
Statistics have told those with “ears to hear” for years that the rate of divorce decreases, the older a couple is when married. Couples between the ages of 18-24 (or younger) have the highest rates of divorce among married couples. This age group of married couples also tend to suffer significantly lower incomes, many times at or even below poverty level. Poverty’s fallout among young people and society includes poor education, single parenting (related both to the high divorce rate and young, unmarried mothers), severe stress, poor mental and physical health, drug abuse, child abuse, abortion, and the ignominious welfare state-all issues that conservative Christians are deeply worried about.
Still, there are many examples of conservative celebrity Christians, politicians, and leaders who strongly promote the idea of early marriage as a panacea for society’s ills. The often-cited op-ed article from Christianity Today called, The Case for Early Marriage (July 2009), by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist with much to say on the topic of young marriages in the church-see also Regnerus’s similar article titled, Freedom to Marry Young (April 2009), from the Washington Post-seems to be mostly concerned with abstinence (rather a lack thereof), baby-making, the “decreasing market value of women” as they age, and economics; it is cheaper to live together with someone, pooling resources, than living alone, he insists. Continuing in the CT article, Regnerus appears to idolize marriage as a “formative institution” and elevates it to the status of duty, meanwhile stigmatizing singles (especially women) as if they are forced to settle into their singleness. Regnerus is a real romantic.
The Duggar Family’s long-running reality TV show has garnered them much influence. The Duggars, of “19 Kids and Counting” fame, do not self-identify as a Quiverfull family, but they do maintain similar strict beliefs concerning children, homeschooling, marriage, modesty, patriarchy, and courtship. “Jim Bob and Michelle were married on July 21, 1984, just after Michelle’s high school graduation. She was 17 and he was 19 when they married; neither went to college” 19_Kids_and_Counting.
It would seem that oldest son Josh Duggar and his wife, Anna, were married when they were both 20. Anna says on their webpage, she first saw Josh via the TV show when they were both 13. They met at a homeschooling conference in 2006, when they would have both been 18. After a carefully cultivated courtship, they were married in 2008 and now have 4 children.
Josh was recently found to have cheated on his wife with a prostitute (at least once), engaging in rough, unprotected sex and potentially exposing both his wife and unborn child to venereal disease. Of Josh’s two married sisters, one was married at 20, the other waited until the ripe old age of 24. Both young women became pregnant immediately, none of the Duggars have gone to or have been encouraged to attend college. Although the Duggars’ lifestyle has worked for them financially because of their celebrity status, the average couple who marries early becomes just another statistic.
Child Marriage: A Rose by Any Other Name
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-10
Rather than at least remaining neutral on the subject or better yet, speaking up for voiceless girls and young women like the Bible adjures Christians to do, certain teachers, preachers, and celebrities like Swanson, Bruehner, Robertson, the Duggar family, and others, actively encourage early marriage, even child marriage, although most Evangelicals draw the line at age 18-20 (*Disclaimer: I do not know that the Duggars advocate for child marriage, but the others in this list have, as has already been discussed in this article).
“At a Sportsmen’s Ministry talk in 2009, [Phil] Robertson had some advice for a young man. “Make sure that she can cook a meal, you need to eat some meals that she cooks, check that out,” he said. “Make sure she carries her Bible. That’ll save you a lot of trouble down the road. And if she picks your ducks, now, that’s a woman.”
“They got to where they’re getting hard to find,” Robertson remarked. “Mainly because these boys are waiting until they get to be about 20 years old before they marry ’em. Look, you wait until they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket.” The Duck Commander company founder added: “You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16, they’ll pick your ducks. You need to check with mom and dad about that of course.” “
In a radio broadcast defending Phil Robertson’s comments above, former Executive Director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado, and current head of Generations with Vision, Kevin Swanson stated: “Remember that one concern people had over Duck Dynasty, when the guy came out and said the girls, 15 or 16 years of age, she’s able to get married, they got all mad. Because boy, you get a girl married at 15 or 16 years of age, that’s a sin! Dave Bruehner: Well it is because she doesn’t have a whole life of fornication ahead of her anymore.
Later on, the men remarked, “I mean, think about what the president of the Girl Scouts would say about this, Dave, if we said, “Hey, these 15 year old girls, 16 year old girls, they may be ready to get married. They don’t have to live these, you know, independent lifestyles.””
The story of Matthew Chapman is famous/infamous depending on your perspective. He is well-known in conservative homeschooling groups for courting a young teen named Maranatha while she was 13 and he 25, eventually marrying her with her father’s permission and approval when she was 15 and Matthew was 27.
It seems that Matthew Chapman is going to be a keynote speaker at Christian Home Educators of Ohio’s annual homeschool convention this summer. This is a major convention…In addition to Matthew serving as keynote speaker, his wife Maranatha is slated as a featured speaker. Matthew runs Kindling Publications, and both Maranatha and Lauren is featured heavily on organization’s website.Matthew Chapman and Why I Included Lauren’s Picture-Love, Joy, Feminism
Child marriages heralded by the above-mentioned men, seem genuinely logical in their anachronistic culture which sometimes encompasses such names as Quiverfull, Patriarchy, and Evangelical Homeschool Movement (*there is much overlap here; not all families that adhere to these labels believe all the same things, perhaps especially on the issue of underage marriages). These movements, along with some Fundamental Evangelical Christians and churches, strive to bring back a romanticized 1950s, in some cases 1850s, believing those times to be Christianity’s heyday in America. Interestingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, those eras in history saw higher rates of underage marriages and sexual abuse, wife submission, and patriarchy-centered households -all hallmarks of the above-mentioned movements. It wasn’t until women’s groups moved strongly to shed light on the issues and promote change, that child marriage began to become a thing of the past.
While many might consider child marriages to be a form of pedophilia, medically and legally speaking, pedophilia is limited to sexual attraction to prepubescent children and child molestation is limited to the sexual touching of children 14 and younger. Sexual abuse, then is the term to be used concerning the topic of child marriages.
The main debate points against pedophilia concern:
The lack of true consent on the part of the child
The manipulation and power plays on the part of adult authority figures/taking advantage of a child’s innocence, naivete, and inability to say “no”
The safety and health of a child which includes the possibility of pregnancy, STDs, and/or physical damage
Using a child for the gratification of an adult
While the legal definitions exclude underage, child marriages from being classified as pedophilia or child molestation, there are still strong similarities because of the unique, fundamental culture of the groups that propose it:
The young girls in such families are not able to give their own consent, because the consent is settled between the father-patriarch and the bridegroom.
There are significant power plays on the part of older adults as they take advantage of such a sheltered girl’s innocence, naivete, and inability to say “no”.
The safety and health of the young lady is not taken into consideration, since medicine has shown how dangerous pregnancy can be for teens and their babies, yet in many of these families, contraception is considered a terrible sin against God. As was seen in the Josh Duggar-Ashely Madison case (see link above), these innocent teen girls may still be at risk of STDs as well.
Finally, these young marriages are pushed or arranged purely for the gratification of the adults involved and not the benefit of the girl.
Young/Early marriages occur between at least one party who is between 18-24 years old. In most cases, the couple are peers in age.
Young/Early marriages are often encouraged among traditionally-minded churches and religious groups as a way to reduce sexual sin and single parenthood.
Young/Early marriages and child marriages have the highest rates of divorce among married couples. Many times, young couples are uneducated, leading to poverty, which in turn leads to a variety of personal, familial, and social problems.
Child marriages are marriages that occur between at least one party who is between 12-17 years old. In many cases, the minor is a female and the bridegroom is in his mid-20s or older.
Child marriages are happening in the United States due to the culture of immigrants coming in and religious fundamental cults throughout the states.
Child marriages are a form of sexual abuse, no matter how prettily packaged it may seem.
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Many times I share silly things on Facebook for laughs. Sometimes I share things that made me think. This time I share an article to speak out.
Sometimes people don’t understand that rather than being a gossip or celebrating anothers’ downfall, stories like this one are shared and commented on because the sharer once believed the same and likewise had their own downfall. They hope others will listen and avoid the same painful mistakes that sometimes cannot be undone.
Although at the time, I did not have names or faces or labels for these beliefs (I had no idea who Bill Gothard was, for example), I believed them with my whole heart. I believed them until Nov. 3, 2003, the day of my baby’s funeral, and I have been oh-so-slowly untangling myself ever since.
These beliefs are life-changing in a negative way; they are poison and life-destroying. They are also faith-destroying, and both should cause Christians to pause and consider.
It is easy to become enamored of these beliefs. They promise much and it is only until much later you learn it never delivers. After you have committed, after you have spent so much time and money and energy in studying, practicing, and preaching these beliefs do you slowly realize the truth.
I have lost many friends because I practiced these beliefs, I have lost many friends because I left these beliefs behind. I have lost many friends, even this very week, because I speak out against these beliefs. I have been called bitter, unforgiving, angry, paranoid, hurtful, picky, a perfectionist, and a tool of Satan because I have been so hurt by these beliefs and I choose to speak out. But I get it, I really do, because 13 years ago, when I was high on the elitism of these beliefs and getting attention from fellow Christians, accolades from church leaders, and “gifts of God”, I would have said and thought the same.
“My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations…“‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth.12 When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?” ~Ezekiel 13:9-12
Appearances are everything in American culture in general, and the Christian church in America (and perhaps world-wide) is no exception. It is high-time we admit what everyone else has seen for a long while: We have an image problem. That is, most churches are very careful about how they appear to the world of believers and unbelievers alike. Now this article could delve into the way some churches try to market themselves and essentially sell Jesus (or at least their version of Him which you can learn all about from some Christian author’s latest book on the subject), but I’m going to take another route.
“Man looks at the outward appearance…” 1 Sam. 16:7
What does the Bible say “peace” looks like? Isaiah 32:1-5 describes “The Kingdom of Righteousness” saying, “See, a king will reign in righteousnessand rulers will rule with justice…Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,and the ears of those who hear will listen. The fearful heart will know and understand,and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear. No longer will the fool be called noblenor the scoundrel be highly respected.”
In other words when the righteous (note, not self-righteous) lead with justice and truth, then wisdom, peace, and understanding will also reign. (…Maybe not like that)
The Bible speaks much on freedom and how people were originally created equal. But over time elitism, and therefore oppression, entered the Church as it had for every culture before and after. Abuse, even abuse in the Church, is sadly a huge topic, but for the purposes of this article, I want to address the enablers of spiritual abuse, who, make no mistake, are every bit as abusive as their more overt counterparts.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:17-18
Recently, I had a fascinating discussion with several people on a Christian news site that I help moderate. Fascinating not because of the content, but because of the responses from some of the Christians on there. The person I was initially debating with has a reputation of being…well, not very kind, although they have a display name that proudly indicates their Christianity. Normally I try not “to cast my pearls before swine” (Matt. 7:6), but I had had enough of this person’s unkindness towards others and told them so. They came back with something snarky and demeaning, and before I knew it, I had delved into a very interesting psychological experiment.
Emotional manipulation in the church for the sake of “peace”
“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” Luke 17:3
Denial, anger, name-calling/demeaning, bargaining, suppressing and shunning; these are the tools of abusers, and it was fascinating to see how quickly this person riffled through each one. I was kind but firm, I (surprisingly) did not lose my cool, and let the person know that I was not afraid of them. They would not succeed in shaming me, in wearing me down, in being allowed to abuse me and others on the site verbally. They would not make me lose control and cry or get angry, they would not succeed in shutting me up. I have dealt with emotionally abusive people like him in real life, and if there are two things I can be thankful for, they are that my backbone is a bit straighter and stronger than it used to be, and my discernment is a bit sharper. To my amazement, this generally very mouthy person actually backed off. And then his buddies came.
“Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” Proverbs 25:26
Accusations went flying: I was not showing kindness, I was not showing humility, I was not being Christ-like, I needed to back down, I was setting a bad example, we were both in the wrong (for arguing, I suppose), we both needed to apologize, and my personal favorite…seeing two Christians arguing made the atheists laugh with derision. Even people who were usually my supporters came out and told me we were both in the wrong for arguing. They all knew the person with whom I was debating, to be intentionally and highly hurtful and rude to anyone who disagreed with him on anything. His sympathizers didn’t necessarily like him or his doings, but none were willing to call him out and all were afraid of me doing so.
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:17
I continued to stand my ground, and reiterate that while I understood the concerns of other Christian commenters, there was no room for compromise, and there was no need for an apology on my part; I had only pointed out what was wrong and what everyone already knew. It finally ended with a sizzle rather than a bang, and I was left to ponder the situation. This was, as I have said, not the first time I have dealt with very emotionally abusive “Christian” people before, and the tricks were all the same. The people from my past situations and the people in this online case all were motivated by one thing: The preservation of image.
“The foolish man built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” ~Matt. 7:26-27
I’ve written before about churches trying desperately to “look pretty”, churches using melodramatic publicity stunts, and churches using business marketing tactics to draw people in. The preservation of image is another well-known marketing strategy, but one that can be used by individuals, families, small groups, and large groups to help convince outsiders that the practitioner of image preservation is “the best”. Enablers come into play by helping to protect (even viciously) the image of their group, be it large or small. Why are they so hung up on image when Jesus blasted the Pharisees for doing the same in Matthew 23? My guess is because they know that their facade covers up an empty shell, and they just don’t want to deal with cleaning and fixing it up.
But here’s the thing: Who do they think they are really kidding? They deceive only themselves because everyone else sees it or will come to see it for the falseness it is. The Bible tells people to strive to actually live righteously, not pretend to with airs of false piety.
“Why does Jerusalem always turn away?They cling to deceit;they refuse to return.I have listened attentivelybut they do not say what is right.None of them repent of their wickedness,saying, “What have I done?”…From the least to the greatest,all are greedy for gain;prophets and priests alike,all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my peopleas though it were not serious.“Peace, peace,” they say,when there is no peace.* Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?No, they have no shame at all;they do not even know how to blush.So they will fall among the fallen;they will be brought down when they are punished,says the Lord.”~Jeremiah 8:5-12