I am not a regular television watcher and have not been one for about fifteen years now. Towards the end of my college years I realized that I had already wasted far too much of my life sitting in front of a box that projects mind numbing drivel onto a screen. So when I moved to the city and got a job and my own place I made a conscious decision to make better use of my spare time. Having been a book-lover all my life, cutting television out meant that I had more time to devote to reading and so I have never regretted this decision. Today I only watch television when I am out at my dad’s place or visiting friends.
Consequentially, I had never heard of the Duggars until their recent scandal became a news item. I now know, thanks to the scandal, that they are a family from Arkansas whose television show, “19 Kids and Counting”, had apparently become the most watched program on what used to be called The Learning Channel. It is not a television show I would ever have watched belonging to a genre of programming that I particularly despise, that in which it is assumed that the absence of scripting and directing means that what is being recorded and broadcast is therefore “reality”.
The scandal concerns the eldest of the family’s nineteen kids, Joshua. A couple of weeks ago one of those celebrity gossip rags that offend the eye at checkout stations across North America dug up a ten year old police report about how he had groped several girls when he was 14-15 years old. This had been reported to his father, who disciplined him privately, put him through some kind of a counselling program, and made him confess it to an Arkansas state trooper who in a bizarre twist is now serving time for a sex crime himself.
The media have been using these revelations to crucify the Duggar family who are fundamentalist Baptists and believe in all sorts of things such as Christianity and patriarchy which the bien pensants of the media in their politically correct chronological snobbery consider to be appallingly backwards. Thus they are downplaying the fact that Josh Duggar was himself a kid at the time the groping took place. Omar Khadr was about the same age when the Americans captured him in Afghanistan and tried and convicted him for war crimes and the media has not stopped yapping about how he was “just a kid” ever since. Khadr’s were the greater crimes, but the same people that excuse his terrorism on the grounds of his youth, are howling for Duggar’s blood in spite of his. Unfortunately for Mr. Duggar he is of the wrong race and religion to attract media sympathy despite being himself a media personality.
This weekend an article appeared in the D section of the extra thick Saturday edition of the Winnipeg Free Press entitled “Stop whitewashing religious extremism for ratings”. One might be forgiven for thinking, based on the title alone, that the column, penned by sportswriter Melissa Martin, was calling for an end to the media lovefest for Omar Khadr. Alas that was not the case. For while the Khadr family, who as members of al-Qaeda consider themselves to be mujahideen, holy warriors of Islam, waging jihad against us Western infidels in the name of Allah, are certainly religious extremists in the sense of those who resort to the rather extreme means of lethal violence to accomplish the ends of their religion, it is the faith of the Duggar family that Martin is talking about. Since the Duggars, whatever their faults and failings, whatever their sins of omission and commission, may or may not be, have as yet, to blow up buildings, kill people, and commit war crimes on behalf of the Christian God, they are clearly not extremists in this sense of the term.
By calling the Duggars’ religious beliefs “extremism” Martin is saying that they fall outside what is considered at the moment to be the mainstream. This is an accurate enough assessment. The problem is that the contemporary mainstream has become so polluted and toxic that it is not a place that any sane person would desire to be.
Martin’s article is evidence enough of that. It is a feminist diatribe that begins with a progressive cliché that would have been almost clever had it not been done a gazillion times already in the past, the bait-and-switch in which she asks her readers to think of a hypothetical faith with a very negative attitude towards women which she describes in terms that seem intended to conjure up images of the Khadrs’ religion before revealing that it is the faith of the Duggars of which she is speaking. Her complaints against the Duggars’ faith are that it stops women “from seeking true education”, that it sees “all of women's hardest-won rights” as “pathways to sin” and their bodies “as vessels from which to beget a new army for their faith”, and that it has attacked “not just abortion rights, but also protections and rights for LGBTQ people, and sometimes take aim at equal-pay laws and no-fault divorce” and has sought “limits on access to contraception”.
Pardon me while I stifle a yawn.
“Abortion rights”, while accepted as mainstream today, are a concept that is indefensible in itself. The expression refers to a woman’s supposed right to have an abortion, which feminism predicates upon the argument that a woman’s body belongs to her, that she alone has the right to decide what happens with and in it, therefore since pregnancy occurs within a woman’s body, she has the right to terminate it if she wishes. While there is a semblance of logic to this argument it vanishes completely when you realize that the right to have an abortion which feminism claims for women, would bestow upon each woman the power to decide for reasons personal to herself whether another human life lives or dies and upon women collectively the power of life and death over the entire next generation and unilateral control over human reproduction. Seen in that light, abortion rights are utter madness. That our society has given women these “rights”, in recent decades, and that the mainstream of our society accepts that women ought to have them, proves nothing except that our disregard for the value of human life is such that we now owe Adolf Hitler an apology for the way we have been judging him for the last seventy years.
I could make similar arguments against no-fault divorce and everything else on the list individually, but it would be simpler to address the glaringly obvious theme running through virtually all of them. From “access to contraception” to “abortion rights” what stands out about the modern, mainstream, things Martin finds it so incredible that anyone would oppose is that in one way or another, they tend to separate sex from reproduction, and womanhood from motherhood. Feminist ideology declares its goal to be the liberation of women and their elevation to full humanity which feminism accuses Christianity and pre-feminist Western tradition in general of having denied them by the reduction of women to being merely wives and mothers. The idea is that for a woman to be human in the fullest sense, she must first be an individual who shapes her own role and destiny according to her own will. Feminism, therefore, looks with suspicion upon motherhood and those who enthusiastically embrace it by, for example, having 19 children, while itself embracing everything that separates sex from reproduction, such as contraception, abortion, and homosexuality.
To separate sex from reproduction, however, is to separate it from life, to render it sterile. It is hardly appropriate to regard this as being a liberation. Rather than elevate human eros to something higher than the biological function we share with the animals, as everyone from Plato to the doctors and theologians of the medieval Church sought to do, it reduces it to something less than that biological function.
What if, similarly, feminism got it wrong and the path to full humanity is not a generic, plastic, individuality but manhood for a man and womanhood for a woman? What if it was not Christianity, tradition, and “the patriarchy” which reduced women to something less than fully human by seeing them as wives and mothers – just as men were seen as husbands and fathers – but feminism which has reduced womanhood to something less than fully human by separating motherhood from it? While feminists love to accuse their opponents of being narrow-minded and bigoted feminism itself is such a narrow ideology that those within it find it difficult to formulate such outside-the-box questions for themselves. When a feminist does ask herself such questions and honestly strives for the answers she will usually find herself outside feminism, like the late Dr. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese.
Unfortunately, susceptibility to narrow ideologies like feminism is the norm rather than the exception.
It is ironic, therefore, that the first accusation Martin makes against the Duggars’ Christian faith is that it stops women from seeking “true education”. For the very fact that Martin is undoubtedly correct in identifying her own views as those accepted as mainstream today is an indicator that true education has simply not been available to most people of either sex for decades. True education begins by training people to think - to learn and understand what others have said, thought and written, to reflect critically upon it, and then to express intelligently their own thoughts - and it develops and expands through contemplative exposure to “the best that has been said and thought in the world” from the earliest ages down to the present.
A mind that has truly been educated is unlikely to fall prey to indoctrination by the kind of narrow ideology that expresses itself in such shibboleths as “women's hardest-won rights” and “long dominated by a white Christian majority” or to the chronological snobbery that assumes that the ideas that are generally accepted by the public today are therefore superior and enlightened, even if they would have been regarded as sheer lunacy in all times and places previous to our own day, and regardless of whether or not they can withstand scrutiny. We could do with more true education today, but it can no longer be found in the public schools or the universities, or anything else belonging to the now hopelessly polluted mainstream. Men and women seeking that education today, will have to look for it outside the mainstream, in the territory that the Melissa Martins of this world call extreme.
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