I don’t know much about this story out of Iowa, but Dan Brennan offers an excellent perspective on the culture of evangelicalism and sexuality:
Irresistible attraction is a story embedded with a cluster of beliefs held by some contemporary Christians (men and women). It is born out of centuries old male-dominated patriarchy. The story sexualizes women and then blames and oppresses women.[...]
This is at the heart of so-called “Christian” rules between men and women like missiologists Ed Stetzer who supports avoidance between men and women. Some Christians like Matt Schmucker believe men and women who are not married to each other cannot share a meal alone together, a cup of coffee or even having a meaningful conversation between each other.
Embedded in this story of irresistible attraction is that any form of sexual attraction is irresistible. In the Christian tradition, some have held sexual attraction as irresistible. It is so powerful, it overwhelms the will. “Sorry, I just couldn’t control myself. You are so attractive, I had to act on my impulses.”
But Christian feminist and ethicist Christine Gudorf says, “It is the root of what makes women fear men as dangerous.”
I can remember being a young pastor on staff at a small church where I was instructed never to have even a cup of coffee with a woman in public who was not my spouse. No joke. But, an especially important comment was made my Amy, who is quoted in the article from her comments at Ed Stetzer’s blog:
“In the outside-church-world, I’m treated less as a latent temptress siren, waiting to lead men astray given mere minutes of a closed, window-free office door. This has been a great relief, and allows for a different level of respect and cooperation between co-workers, regardless of gender. Safe environments, like you say. I found I had to leave the church to find them, unfortunately.”
Spot on. Then, more excellent comments from (presumably the same) Amy in the blog comments on Dan’s post:
It’s been good to be out of church. And despite what I was told my whole life by church, my values haven’t changed, (I do swear more, confession). But regarding patriarchy and sexism, it’s good to be removed from church. Not that there aren’t sometimes undercurrents of some of the same ideas in this regard in the “outside church world” too – because there are, (patriarchy extends beyond Christianity). However, its much more muted. Two main reasons:
1. Patriarchy and sexism are much less tolerated outside of this Christian sub-culture. Therefore, these things are more likely to be called out when they’re seen by either men or women without the man being seen as “not manly” or the woman being seen as “subverting authority”. In general, this helps foster more respect and a more level playing field between the sexes. It’s not a surprise to me that non-christians are confused when commenting on this story, not in the least – it looks like the dark ages to them.
2. This brand of Christian subculture is under-girded by fear, shame and a lack of trust. That may seem harsh, but that’s what I see. I honestly I don’t think most of the world would recognize this particular brand of Christianity without these three things and they may not recognize themselves. In the outside-church-world, there is at least consistent space for places and relationships that aren’t run, (or projected upon by the community) by fear and shame. Therefore, ironically, outside of this culture, it can actually be easier to navigate the fundamental gospel idea of “perfect love” as a love that casts out all fear. If perfect love casts out all fear then how can it possibly exist in any consistent way in a culture under-girded by fear and shame?
It can’t. Until its looked at for what it is, these kind of things will continue to happen, and will continue to confuse non-Christians.
Read the whole post, and the comments. It’s well worth your time.