The other day, we began working our way through Janice Shaw Crouse’s book Marriage Matters: Perspectives On The Private And Public Importance Of Marriage. In that examination, I noted that Crouse, for a religious right leader, speaks with a refreshing frankness on matters of sex and relationships that one would never expect from a Matt Barber or a Tony Perkins. She actually comes across as human, even though she is so very wrong on so many things. I also noted that, in some ways, it seems like she actually means well, but that the problem with the Judeo-Christian Supremacist worldview is that, if something does not fit into said worldview, it either is impossible or doesn’t exist.
What’s tragic is that, when considering matters of love and relationships, as we will today, that worldview limits Janice and others from enjoying, celebrating and embracing things that simply look different from what they were taught by their fundamentalist interpretation of religion. What’s even more tragic is that these folks actually are spending their careers working to control other people, to try to compel them to live according to that worldview. Domestic groups like Concerned Women For America and international alliances like the World Congress Of Families fight tooth and nail to deny both equality and love to LGBT people around the world, simply because their arrangements don’t fit into the religious right worldview.
What a shame.
The first major section of Marriage Matters is entitled “Preserving Love and Romance,” and therein, she expounds, sometimes personally, on what it takes to create a strong marriage. And she has a lot to say about sex! We’ll get to that in the next piece.
First, let’s look at some quotes about the institution of marriage:
Love’s passion is volatile and unpredictable.
I should know. It was such a shock when some of my younger siblings expressed surprise that our marriage had lasted. My first reaction upon hearing this was bewilderment; how could they doubt the passionate love my husband and I shared?
With time and reflection, I understand their misinterpretation of the explosive intensity of our strong personalities. It is no simple matter to contain such a volatile combination of two hard-driving individuals. Certainly, without commitment, it could not have lasted. Enduring love and sex without promises? No way! Without the sacred covenant of marriage? Impossible.
There is nothing in there that could not be said about loving, married gay or lesbian couple.
What is more delightful than seeing the growing oneness of a married couple learning to connect with each other in a dozen different ways? Sometimes it shows up in their humorous exchanges; other times simply in the way they glance at each other. One thing I especially enjoy seeing is when a couple manages to coordinate things despite little being said — a little like dancers or skaters who know each other’s moves by heart.
There is nothing in there that could not be said about loving, married gay or lesbian couple.
If and when both husband and wife lay aside their resentments when they do not get their own way, learn to appreciate their differences, and thus achieve a deeper understanding of one another than the mere romantic attraction that brought them together initially, their affection for each other can steadily deepen until the relationship they create turns out to be “something really special.” Remarkably, such an example becomes an influence on the lives of everyone who chances to witness the love they share.
Same goes for loving, committed, married gay and lesbian couples. Just change it to “both husbands” or “both wives.”
A good marriage generates life and energy in such a marvelous way that it radiates outward, nourishing all in its path. In short, to marry is to start another branch on the tree of life with all of its bountiful potential, large and small.
Still includes gay and lesbian married couples.
The protection of marriage does not have to be onerous (one of the many false claims of feminist ideology); this is so beautifully attested to by the three brief lines of Emily Dickinson’s poem #1028: ‘Twas my one Glory — Let it be Remembered — I was owned of Thee. Dickinson’s words convey a relationship of deep emotions, something soul stirring. Those words also speak of total surrender, of an all-consuming passion, and, I am confident that those lines convey the hunger of many women’s souls.
I must admit, I got worried here as to exactly where Janice was going with this. Reading on:
Her sentiments cause something to stir in many, both male and female. The poet captures the idea that to be known, to be understood and completely accepted, is an integral part of being loved, of belonging. What are the odds that those deep sentiments will be fulfilled outside of marriage, where passion and belonging are not bound together?
Yet there is another dimension, “ownership,” that carries with it a huge obligation and enormous responsibility. It is not about domination or control, but it is about as territorial as you can get. It demands complete fidelity and total faithfulness.
Now, I will be the first to say that I very much subscribe to Dan Savage’s overarching philosophy on this — that the terms of fidelity and faithfulness should be up to an individual couple. Janice goes on to talk of monogamy and I, personally, am right there with her. However, that’s not the right answer for a lot of couples, and those couples who are radically honest, loving and trusting toward one another, and who come up with other “arrangements” that fit their needs end up being stronger for doing so. Neither Janice Shaw Crouse nor I have any place telling a couple what works best for them, do we? (She disagrees.) But again, there’s nothing that Janice says here that can’t be applied to a loving, married gay or lesbian couple.
Janice even quotes Genesis 2:18, which says, “it is not good for man to be alone.” This is the part of the story where God creates Eve to be Adam’s companion, and many fundamentalist types take this as the Bible’s first condemnation of gay people, which is a stretch by any measure. The text says nothing about sexual orientation, because the Biblical writers didn’t actually understand that concept. Moreover, God doesn’t create Eve and immediately say, “only opposites! No samesies!”
But now we do understand sexual orientation!
Science tells us that being gay is a normal sexual orientation, that it’s part of nature. Janice can deny this all she wants, and I’m sure her associated think tanks would be willing to pay for bogus studies, just as the religious right did with Mark Regnerus, that say different. But as recently out Christian artist Vicky Beeching told the vicious Scott Lively, in so many words, for a Christian to embrace science is tantamount to embracing revelation from God himself. As in, if your interpretation of scripture does not jell with what science tells us, perhaps you’re missing something in scripture. The Bible doesn’t remotely address loving, committed same-sex relationships and marriages, unions that live up to every single amazing quality of marriage that Janice brings up. These are unions that bear great fruit and indeed add branches to the “tree of life,” as she writes. All she’d have to do to see that is to get to know some of those amazing gay and lesbian couples, leaving her judgment out on the front porch where it belongs. Limiting her understanding of the reality of gays and lesbians, of science and of her faith tradition limits her ability to grasp love for other human beings who are different from her.
But, again, if it doesn’t fit into the Judeo-Christian Supremacist worldview, it’s either impossible or it doesn’t exist. Edie Windsor’s story? Shhhhhh.
Janice even has some wisdom to share for young couples in love, about how true love can and must transcend the initial feelings of euphoria that accompany it, and about the concomitant vulnerability that a person experiences when she’s with that person. She, of course, believes that the only place for sex is in a heterosexual marriage, but the vulnerability she describes goes for all couples, gay, straight, virgins on their wedding night or a hundred partners in. This is, again, advice that she could give to either Adam and Eve or Adam and Steve:
New love is about a couple learning to cope with what it means to be naked, not merely physically but also emotionally. This is especially true when they have said by their words and actions not just “I desire you” or “you excite me,” but “I need you.” Often, the more intense and completely their intimacy, the more exposed they feel afterward. And there is something in our nature — particularly in youth — that rebels at the experience of being vulnerable, that feels angry at feeling as though self-sufficiency and independence have eroded.
Listen to her, Adam and Steve! I don’t care if you’ve slept with entire city blocks, if your relationship is so intimate that you are truly exposed to each other, you really see each other for who you are, you are going to feel incredibly vulnerable! That’s a very uncomfortable experience for humans, regardless of their sexual orientations, religious beliefs or political leanings. It’s universal, though, and it’s a sign that you’re with the right guy or girl. You have to lean into it, though.
(Haha, I am making Janice Shaw Crouse give pre-marital counseling to gays right now.)
However, immediately after this statement, Janice has one of her moments where she reveals that her life and her beliefs don’t exactly measure up with the statements she makes on stage at the World Congress Of Families, where she rails against the “feminist agenda” and the like. The nouns don’t quite fit with her descriptions of them. Janice, remember, is a strong, independent career woman who, by her account, is nourished by an extremely strong, long-lasting marriage. That’s good! Check this out, though:
Old love has a better understanding than new love of the dual dimension of intimacy. In youth, the fireworks of physical passion — the God-designed motivating force that initially drives us to mate — can obscure the quieter but equally critical process of bonding that is occurring with every tender touch and embrace. This process of cementing the two together is seen only indirectly through its mysterious consequences, something that the Scriptures refer to when it speaks of “the two becoming one.” The observable physical union of the couple … However, the unseen emotional bonding that accompanies sexual intimacy — if properly nourished within the bonds of marriage — can unite couples for life, thus equipping them to nourish any new life with which God blesses them.
The life stories of Ruth and Billy Graham dramatically illustrate one of love’s great paradoxes — the surrender of their autonomy in marriage did not diminish them (as many today fear), but the process of becoming husband and wife produced an expanding fulfillment of each of their personhoods, just the opposite of what might be expected.
This happens with gay couples too. (Cough, cough.) But Janice is not actually describing the idea of “two becoming one,” no matter what scripture says. She’s describing what really happens in strong marriages, gay and straight, where two become two together — a team. Indeed, the best couples are the ones you look at and get the sense that, no matter what, they are facing the world as a team, guns blazing, together.
Now, because Janice Shaw Crouse is an anti-feminist, there are some seriously problematic things in book. For instance, in this chapter, she lovingly recounts the Biblical story of Isaac and Rebekah as an example of a marriage succeeding under “imperfect circumstances.” Read, and be disturbed:
A messenger arrives bearing expensive gifts. He had been sent back to his homeland to find a wife for a wealthy relative’s unmarried son. The host receives the messenger warmly and is willing to send a beautiful young virgin to be wedded to the relative’s son. There is only one condition. The messenger must delay his return for ten days. The messenger insists that he must return immediately. The host replies that the young lady must agree to the arrangement. When she is consulted, she decides to go with the messenger. They return to the homeland; she marries the son and they eventually have twin boys.
The young woman’s name was Rebekah, and you can find an account of her life as Isaac’s wife in the book of Genesis. What stirs my imagination, more than the problems they faced as husband and wife, is the amazing way she chose – as a young girl, probably no more than fifteen or sixteen — an unknown future in an unfamiliar land cut off from everyone she knew. She could only have dimly perceived the full reality of her choice to embark on this adventure.
I’m going to cut it off right here, because Janice, THAT IS CALLED “CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING.” You should be familiar with the concept, but if you need a brush-up, here is the large section of the Concerned Women For America website (which, you may remember, is your organization) which deals with human and child trafficking. I know the story is in the Bible, but there are a lot of things that are in the Bible that are quite unsavory. Condoning slavery, for instance. The fact that Isaac and Rebekah ended up being a pretty decent match and whatnot does not change the fact that Rebekah was trafficked to a foreign land by a stranger as a teenager. If she were from Southeast Asia, her horror story might be on the CWA website. (And feminist websites! It’s, like, one of the only things those two opposing sides actually agree on, somewhat.)
As we are seeing, there are things about the Judeo-Christian Supremacist worldview, as espoused by Janice, that are hugely problematic for human beings. And yet, frank as she is, she has some wisdom to share, if only she could take off the blinders of that worldview and accept reality as it is, rather than as her religious beliefs tell her they should be. For instance, if she did that, she might not have included the child sex trafficking thing in her book.
Folks like Janice actually make money — lots of it — off hurting LGBT people and their families, because their desire to rid the world of everything that exposes the flaws of their worldview supersedes their humanity. Their God is simply too small and too petty to love anyone who doesn’t live exactly as they do. In coming days, we will see exactly the lengths Janice goes to in order to obscure the idea that LGBT people could be anything other than godless homosexual fascist sluts, or whatever they’re calling us these days. But next time, we’re going to sit a spell with Janice and talk about S-E-X!
Sidenote: I am always one to give credit where credit is due, even when I disagree with 98% of a person’s opinions. That said, on a completely different subject, Janice Shaw Crouse went off on Ann Coulter this week for lambasting Christian medical aid workers in Africa as “idiotic.” While I don’t agree with the idea of traveling the globe proselytizing for this religion or that, I do wholeheartedly support anyone who does the insanely difficult work of providing medical care to the “least of these,” wherever they are, whatever their motivation. She wasn’t the only one going off on Ann either. Her piece may be the only halfway worthwhile thing ever to have been posted on Matt Barber’s Barbwire.
OTHER PIECES IN THIS SERIES: If you’ve missed them, here you go: