Was it really because Christians are misogynists? Was it really because men don’t care about the happiness and health of their wives? Was it really because Evangelicals hated black people? Or is it because they—like the rest of the world—are staring into a genderless, plastic abyss wherein women and men are not who God says they are, whereby they must, the cultural law says they must, enact their desires or they will not be whole and healthy?
I made some dear (IRL) friends upset yesterday who have been helped by Gregoire’s previous book. The day was also one of unrelenting frustration whereby I spent the whole of it in the car driving people around instead of doing what I planned. I was not able to respond to anything, nor even beat back my own sink full of dishes, nor walk the dog, nor keep up online. I did manage to read a second chapter of Gregoire’s new book but I’d like to do two chapters in one post, so I’m going to pick that up tomorrow. Instead, I want to try to put words to something that I think is swirling around in the cultural air. This will be hard because I prefer to have a tweet or an article to bounce off of, but, it’s International Women’s Day—so let’s celebrate with a listicle.
One. An alluring and powerful narrative has formed about the plight of women and the reasons things are so bad today. It goes something like this: Christians have irreparably damaged their witness, the Christian faith, and the lives of women by their unacceptable view of marriage and sex; and Christians have damaged the Christian faith by their view of the Bible.
Where did this narrative come from? How did it form? It has two or three sources. The first source, I think, is the culture itself which, in a short time, radically shifted from one view of what it means to be human, to another. It took a whole century for the new view to become entrenched, but I really think contraception was the millstone that sunk a “biblical view of the family” under the sea for most people. Even if they had some idea with their heads about human relationships, what they knew with their bodies radically contradicted that view. In a world where women can control if and when they have children, the biological reality of being a woman is not meaningful or substantive enough to undergird and support a society.
The second source of this narrative was the Christian reaction to this change. Christians reacted strongly, as they should have. But, in many cases, wildly and with a hint of hysteria. As the western world shifted from a positive to a neutral to a negative view of Christianity, it is not surprising that those people who refused to shift away from “traditional” and biblical norms became the bad ones. Moreover, as the defacto conscience of the whole, they are discovering that they ought to be quiet, but that they may not go away. In family systems theory, the “biblical view of the family” is the trap that holds all the toxic fumes of the larger system. The western family needs Christianity as its scapegoat. It needs Christians to occasionally react in sorrow and outrage. But secular culture cannot absolutely get rid of Christianity or it will have to face who it is, and that’s not pretty, so of course it won’t do that.
In the usual way of these sorts of cultural shifts, the outside assault on the “biblical view of the family” was helped by the inside repudiation of it. Many “Christians” now unreservedly accept a secular view of what it means to be a self. Assumptions about the needs and requirements of this new kind of humanity, though largely, I would say (after reading just two chapters of Gregoire) unexamined, drive the internal “culture war” that Christians are enduring. Health—both physical and emotional—are at the center of these assumptions.
It is hard for me to overstate how deeply I feel this shift myself. That is because I came in and out of American culture at key moments and was able to observe how it was changing. Christians through time and space have not had this new assumption of “health” at the heart of their faith. And not just Christians either. Most cultures around the world continue not to pursue this idea of “health.”