This article involves a discussion of mature or adult topics, which some people may find distressing. You should not read this if you are under 18 years of age, or if you find the frank discussion of sexual matters (in their sociological context) offensive.
South Korea, where I am currently living, has, at times, a disturbing reverence for the evangelical church(es) of the United States (and to a lesser extent, Western Civilisation), somewhat reminiscent of the adulation that Catholic nations in previous centuries directed towards Rome. Thus we see here Bible quotes in Korean and the “holy” language of English (which in Europe would have been in Latin), and an almost pathological reverence for American brands of the evangelical Christian fundamentalist tradition. I therefore want to look in some depth at the Evangelical Subculture in the United States and its impact not only in America but on the rest of the world, and I will do this from a Christian perspective (note, here I say “a” Christian perspective, that is, the perspective of one Christian (me) and not “the” Christian perspective. Just to make that clear, before you start building that big bonfire in PoHang Yukori and ready yourselves for some good o’ fashioned heretic “purification”.
The Evangelical Church – is really a Christian Republic: it is socially organised in line with the state religion: thus within it are banks, schools, universities, hospitals, companies, marketing departments, book stores, record labels, retail outlets, and social welfare programmes. America, which has long seen a separation between Church and State has, though its unique blend of free-wheeling capitalism and emphasis on self-sufficiency created the space for this rather unique state-within-a-state, a world which, I must confess, at times bares as little relation to the real world as that popular Korean role-playing computer games WarCraft, and at other times apes in a somewhat bizarre fashion the world “outwith the fold”.
Once inside the Republic, you rarely have to leave: you can work in an Evangelical company, attend an evangelical university, have your marriage arranged to an evangelical spouse, send your kids to evangelical summer camp and home educate them in evangelical ways, and nearly everything that can be found in the “unbaptised” world can be found, like a Platonic ideal, existing on the Evangelical plane.
Only in America, where the population is sufficiently large, and the communities sufficiently isolated is such a divorce from ordinary society possible. It is one of the ironies of the Evangelical movement is that, committed as they are to spreading the gospel, they do not seek so much as to reach out to the lost as to drag them in to an alternate universe, a universe which even has its own jargon and language (“Bless you brother” can mean anything from “excuse me, I want to get by” to “I don’t like you very much”). The idea (which I’m sure is not a conscious one) is that once “in”, the Christian will never actually have to leave and maintain contact with the “old world”.
Want a book on Christian transcendental mysticism – we’ve got it. UFOs and paranormal – yup we’ve got that too. Rock music? Yup, right over there, next to the Christian Pilates DVDs, but don’t tell the professors over at Bob Jones University because they think even Christian Rock Music is a one-way ticket to the seventh circle of hell.
Well, only as long as its “Christian” porn: that is, violent to the point where it would make the Marquis de Sade blush and exclaim “Mon Dieu! Why did I not think of that!” and involve sick forms of manipulation that even the vociferous Marquis would not touch with a barge-pole. I am referring to a phenomenon which could only have emerged as a subculture of a subculture: “Christian Domestic Discipline” (CDD) or “Loving Domestic Discipline” LDD.
Never heard of it? Neither did I, until last night, when I was searching for articles on Christian marriage, and up popped what would appear to be an instruction manual on how best to flog your wife [please note that this link will take you to text of a violent and graphic nature] and, it would also appear, your teenage and unmarried daughters of collage age. As I skimmed down, the first sentence that caught my eye was this one:
The following … position for disciplining wives is adapted from a method used and recommended … to paddle high school and college aged daughters. It is suggested in this forum because, as experienced husbands and fathers are aware, there is not much difference in paddling a rebellious teenager or her difficult mother.
My initial reaction was to assume it was one of these Osama-inspired islamist sites or its a weird and kinky porn site bordering on kiddie porn that some freak put the Google adwords for “Christian marriage” for some kind of offensive, morbid joke. I was about to hall my big beautiful behind out of there when I saw the tag line: Loving Wife Spanking in a Christian Marriage. So, that was why it came up on my marriage searches.
In short, this group of Christians, who belong to a subculture with the Evangelical subculture ( I would hasten to add that I have never heard these opinions being preached in any evangelical church), take the Christian insight that Christian wives should submit to their husbands authority as a biblical mandate to spank or flog your wife on her behind in order to punish and correct negative behaviour, and to elicit a more submissive attitude from her. To support this, supposed evangelical pastors (though their names, training, and dates of ordination are mysteriously absent), over a veritable concordance of Bible verses to support this theological position. Or should we say, justification.
An hour later, I had read the whole website, in all its tragic, harrowing detail, several of the blogs by women in these Sadomasochistic relationships. The fact that they all seemed “happy” was no comfort. They reminded me of those poor “happy” souls in Huxley’s Brave New World. Oh yes, I get punishment, but that’s how God intended marriage to be, and the “pain” which the receive at the hands of the wonderful, godly men who love them enough to take them in hand is “nothing with the pain of divorce”. They even have their own brand of kinky underwear: the kinky crotchless granny-panties…are we looking at a new breed of Stepford Christian?
Sadomasochism (usually involving one partner spanking the other) has never really appealed to – but I know that many couples, many married couples engage in it: they say that its a “harmless kink”. Many couples take turns and, as far as I can gather, the eroticism is in (1) the contrast between pain and the intimacy/gentleness which follows the pain and (2) in the psychological power plays within a safe contest. As CS Lewis in his beautiful chapter on erotic love remarks that very often men and women in the bedroom engaged in rough play, costumes, and charades, and all very well and good, as long as we do not loose our sense of humor. The moment we loose our sense of humor about the whole thing, he goes on , the danger of idolatry creeps in.
I would probably add something to this though. Within the context of marriage, we may don whatever costumes and play whatever charades we like. But we should never mistake the costume of a thing for the thing itself, or the charade as anything real. A fairy story my delight a child at bedtime, a child really lost in a forest is in absolute terror. The wicked stepmother is a pantomime demon – a truly wicked step-parent is another matter, as any abuse survivor will tell you. These Christian couples share the charade – an erotic taste – with many in the secular world, and they write pornography – essentially erotica without a sense of humor – to fuel it and reinforce it. Though somewhat unorthodox in Christian circles, within the context of a Christian marriage, as long as you do not involve animals or children or mess with fundamental things like Free Will (I’ll come to that later) its really none of my business, nor anyone elses, of what you do or don’t do in the bedroom.
The problem comes with the idea that (1) your erotic taste is explicitly mandated in the Word of God, and therefore every couple should do it or they are not proper Christians (2) the practice of your erotic tastes think that a man should be able to flog his wife without her consent – but those pesky feminists got hold of the law, wink wink, nudge nudge– , and perhaps most importantly (3) that it’s acceptable to extend your erotic taste to your teenage and collage age daughters.
Dealing with their idea that their erotic tastes are mandated as a Biblical marriage, I would go with what CS Lewis would probably say: you are elevating a charade and pretending its real, and that is very dangerous from a spiritual perspective: in this context Eros, (ie erotic love) goes from being a playful imp to a dark and terrorizing god. They say it’s implied in the Scripture. Well, I know something of the character of St Paul ( I doubt if we would have been friends). If he had thought it was a good thing that husbands flog their wives into submission then he would have said it. Not only that, but he would have distinguished, as he did elsewhere over dietary laws, between what was his idea and what was God’s ideas on the matter. Nowhere, but nowhere in scripture does it say that it is acceptable and the duty of a loving husband to administer this kind of violence in his home.
I think the reason why they have grasped at bible verses which point to the husband’s authority as theological justification are more to do with vanity. I have noticed in the Evangelical subculture in the west and in Korea that a “holy gloss” must be presented for everything one does. You can’t just go on a ten day vacation, it has to be a ten-day mission trip. You can’t take weekend break, it has to be a retreat. You can’t go for a drive, you have go for a drive for the purposes of leaving inspirational Christian literature at a roadside cafe. You can’t play games with your wife in the bedroom, you have to find a biblical mandate, and once “found”, it ceases to be a game. Otherwise you would be just like all the other poor sinners out there.
By taking the charade or game to seriously, there then follows a bizarre reasoning. Because, in their strange interpretation, the Bible mandates this for marriage, it therefore must mandate it for all marriages, and mandate it for those women who get know sexual kick at all out of calling their husbands sir will he flogs them with a belt. It has to be consensual, they say, because those pesky pinko lesbian feminists got hold out our bionically-based laws and stopped us from doing this so that “any man who looks cross-eyed at his wife gets sent to jail”. Apart from being petulant nonsense and a clear exaggeration, (cruelty to your wife has always been a reason for criminal prosecution in Christian jurisprudence since medieval times,) I cannot imagine, ever, a conversation like this between a Christian man and women who are dating.
Him: Anna, it think its time that we move our relationship to the next level. Will you marry me?
Her: Oh Tom, I don’t know what to say
Him: Say yes darling, and make me the happiest man on earth.
Her: Yes, yes, of course.
Him: Oh there is one small thing. In order for us to have great Christian marriage, you have to be ok with me flogging you on a regular basis.
Her: E-excuse me?
Him: Its for your own good, God said so.
In reality, it is the women with the submissive “kinks” in their sexualities who bring up the idea of physical discipline in a relationship, and (no wonder) the males are often extremely reluctant to participate. Dominant men who are into SM seek these women out for wives, or women who are easily manipulated (ie less educated than them) But never, ever ever, would you get a conversation like that “straight off the bat”.
The women are happy, I think, because, having made the charade the real thing, the real thing has conditioned them to behave rather like crack addicts. The CDD scene appears to have another element that doesn’t appear in the “charade” or “pantomime” practiced elsewhere. Behavioral modification in adult women. Psychological manipulation. Now, as any interrogator or torturer – or even any cop for that matter – knows, you can get a dog to lick the hand of that beats it, if you know what to do. Sociopath men who are domestic abusers know this by instinct. Its the reason why battered women don’t leave abusive relationships, and the reason why the good-cop, bad-cop routine works so well. It essentially involves interspersing pain with gentleness or affection, or even solitary confinement with human contact. By way of example, lets look at an account (erotica, pornography?) from one of the women writing on the CDD site (the bold emphasis is hers, not mine.
As the intensity [of the flogging] increases I struggle to keep quiet so as to not alert the children ….In this moment I am his! He pauses at times to comfort & caress me with a soft touch that lies to my mind telling it “This can’t be the same hand that just delivered that pain”. But just as quickly as the spanks stopped, they begin again.
Later on, she describes the “contrast” effect which is intended to produce feelings of relief so profound (if she was in a police cell, she’d be signing that confession):
Isn’t it Amazing that I have never felt more loved or cherished then I do in this moment right now ? The pain is mounting & the spanks are swift, I am not sure this will ever end. When he feels I have seen my errors he picks me up & draws me to his chest. I can do nothing but cry. In this moment I am his! …We lay there in that position for awhile. He wraps his arms around me as I bury my head & allow my tears to flow.
Amazing? No, honey, just very sad that the only way to have proper intimacy in your marriage is to have your husband inflict this kind of suffering on you. In her case, at least, I would recommend counseling. Or perhaps the same deprogramming they give to people coming out of cults. I have no doubt, though, that her treatment at the hands of her husband results in behavior modification, and its this that turns what otherwise might be a harmless charade or bedroom game into something creepy.
Consider this from a husband who is “into” Christian SM:
At the same time, as many women who have experienced both will testify, getting the pants-down/off licking of one’s life is not nearly as soul-wrenching, embarrassing, or agonizing as divorce. Because a timely trip across the husband’s knees usually restores broken fellowship and breeds both love and respect in marriage, the long-term results certainly are not nearly as debilitating as divorce for most couples.
Note here the implication that it is the woman’s behavior that needs modifying or disciplining, not the man’s. Furthermore, note also the implication that it is a woman’s fault if the marriage ends in divorce, and how “loving discipline” can be used as a prescription. There is a technical term for this. Utter hogwosh. Marriages fail because of lack of intimacy. North American males, having been raised in a culture where intimacy is discouraged in raising male children are terrible at it. Feminism is not the reason why American marriages are miserable (implied elsewhere). In all parts of the world, when women are economically secure and educated enough not to stay in a horrible marriage, they leave. This is true for America, true for Europe, and its also true for the developed economies in East Asia (Korea has a divorce rate the same as the United States), which is news for all those misogynists who come here looking for “traditional” Asian brides. The divorce rate in the Christian Church, at least here in Korea, is no different from the un-churched population.
Women nag, men spank. Women have shape tongues, and equally sharp minds, which they can use with great effect. Men have upper body strength. For good or for evil, but use what God gave them. The strong-willed wife will try to outlast her husband’s hand on a bare bottom.
This is a departure from traditional Victorian chauvinism (which these guys are so desperately trying to “rekindle” in their marriages, there is more reference to the Victorian era than any other on their site ). Then, men thought they were superior in every way, intellectually AND physically. The man writing here, who admits to spanking his wife daily to “remind” her not to “slip up”, makes no such claim. He seems to think that women are intellectually superior, (smarter) and therefore more dangerous. Men are portrayed as physically superior, but women as intellectually superior, (but morally inferior) and therefore a “danger” to your inner Neanderthal. It seems that the spanking in his marriage (and it doesn’t seem like a game or a kink any more, does it?) then essentially what you are doing is compensating for your lack of communication skills (and possibly sense of inferiority to your wife’s intelligence), with violence. The writer of this article is a man who is deeply threatened by his wife’s mind.
Yet he is honest. The object is control, not leadership (in the theological section the pastor takes pains to point out this kind of thing is not an abuse of power, not about control, but about leadership). Elsewhere though, we see a very different picture:
There are three basic ways to control a wife. One is to ignore her. Another is to burden her with chores, responsibilities, and work. The final way is to, in a no nonsense fashion, discipline her personally, privately, and memorably. The first method ruins the marriage. The second makes her old. In responsible hands, the third can work miracles.
The folly of this is obvious. I’d like to point out, at this stage, that “even the Devil has the power to perform miracles.” There is nothing especially “good” about a miracle in and of itself.
Lastly, and most importantly, is this idea that as well as being biblical-mandated to flog your wife, you can do this with equal justification to your daughters. Well, no, you can’t. Whether you like it or not, with your wife, if you engage in such practices, you are doing it for erotic reasons. You have done it to increase intimacy, or (more likely in many cases) you cannot have intimacy with out it. You have done it because you get a sexual kick out of it. You have written porn and erotica which you have dressed up as “Christian Spanking Romance” (complete with spanking ratings), in order to fuel your lifestyle. You make your wife strip nude while you do this to her. It is never, ever the same as disciplining a child. And when your daughters become young women, they cease to be children.
Many people confuse loving discipline with cruelty. If you administer as smacking the kind of floggings which are apparently administering to your wife as part of a consensual arrangement, then you are engaging in child abuse; a form of sexual abuse. People who smack their children when they are naughty do so because presumably, one day, they want their kids to grow out of being naughty. The ability of a child to discipline themselves is always the intention. You are training their moral compass. Once the child is capable of making their own moral decisions, (that is, when they transition from childhood to adulthood,) if you still feel the need to smack them then you have done your parenting wrong. If you have done it right, the young adult will have learned self-discipline and self-control. That’s the “whole point” of smacking children. Children are born uncontrollable little savages and its your job as a parent to turn them into socially functioning, happy human beings. Of course, you are trying to modify behavior, but they are children. By definition, unless you ascribe to a lunatic philosophy which believes that children should be allowed to do what they like, a parent’s job, to a certain extent, is to modify the behavior of their kids.
Flogging (they call it paddling, but I like to call a spade a spade) your teenage or collage aged daughters is done for your own satisfaction, not their good. You are reacting in an uncomfortable way to your daughter’s sexuality, and you are sinning. As young adults, they have assumed adult responsibilities, and in many cases, adult rights. I note here you are also only implying it should be done on girls…your male sons have the physical strength, at a much earlier age, to hit you back, and cause real damage. Worse still, you are teaching your daughter that “love” or “intimacy” means a beating. You are distorting the image of fatherhood, and the image of God the Father, by your actions. If I see you do it, I’ll call the cops.
In conclusion, this whole “Christian SM” scene interferes, by a process of psychological manipulation, with Free Will, in adults who are morally responsible for themselves. God views that kind of thing very seriously. I sometimes wonder whether the removal of someone’s free will, through torture, manipulation, or threat, is not the “unforgivable sin” Jesus talked about: free will was so important to God, after all, that He allowed the possibility of disobedience, and we would be fools not to take it as seriously as God does.
This subculture within a subculture is sure sign of the fact that when someone is “born again” what people really mean is “you have joined a club”, or even ” you have joined a State”. And that State is not the kingdom of heaven, but shadowing or aping of the secular world. With all of its inherent sinfulness, pride, perversions, and violence. The dangers should be obvious.
Those things which we make gods, become demons.