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Proper Christian womanhood and the Ray Rice story

Proper Christian womanhood and the Ray Rice story

As the Ray Rice story continues to unfold, Eric C. Miller reminds us that one in four women are victims of domestic violence and one in five are victims of rape. In American history, and in Church history, Miller makes the linkage between “Christian womanhood” and domestic violence:

Throughout American history, public indignation over domestic violence has often been reserved for those cases where the violence goes public, even as the dominant social structures facilitate violence in private. Historically, those structures have drawn heavily upon religious justifications, developing a theory of “family values” that often fails in practice.

Today, we can point to anything from the Catholic Church’s continued refusal to ordain women, to one of the nation’s most popular pastors calling us a “pussified nation,” to fierce national debates over abortion and birth control whose implicit terms are the assertion of control over women’s bodies. Though our jurisprudence is today unlikely to cite men’s divine responsibility as head of the household, much of our political-religious discourse continues to take gender “complementarity” for granted.

This is not to suggest, of course, that all traditional thinking about marriage and gender leads to domestic abuse, just that it creates the conditions that make it more likely. And perhaps more importantly, it ought to remind us that some of our most vicious social problems arise from within our most important social institutions, at times seeking validation in our most intimate beliefs.

For the rest of the story, please visit Religion Dispatches here.

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