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Flournoy, Ellen L.
Powerful submission :
b popular texts and the subjectivity of Christian right women
h [electronic resource] /
by Ellen L. Flournoy.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: The Christian Right exerts considerable influence over female identity, especially through its members who have emerged as one of the most powerful voting blocks in the nation---the Christian Right woman. American Christian women, especially those considered to be on the political fringes, are virtually ignored in academic endeavors. Given their power, which defies their categorization as a "fringe" group, this academic silence is a gross oversight, especially in light of the rise of the Christian Right, which has successfully recruited millions of women to its service. This dissertation analyzes texts of Christian popular culture that contribute to the construction of feminine subjectivity---Tim LaHaye's Left Behind, selections from the most popular of Christian women's self-help books, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, and various online materials available on the website of Concerned Women for America. The consumption of these texts acts as a means through which Christian Right women can support patriarchy through submission and affect their own personal transformations by reframing this submission in powerful terms. Most products aimed at and embraced by Christian women encourage a femininity that can be linked to Mary, the perfect mother of Christ. This Madonna paradigm and its accompanying subtext work with the aforementioned Christian texts to perpetuate an essentialized, yet contradictory portrayal of the feminine. The theory of subjectivity for Christian Right Women offered by this study utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to reveal these women's consciousness as a mixture of contradictions. These contradictions combine the ideologies of Christianity and capitalism, gender codes both archaic and contemporary, and the discourses of modernism and postmodernism into a force that simultaneously subjects these women and supports their personal agency. Ideas from Marxist and feminist thinkers---Louis Althusser, Valentin Volosinov, Judith Butler, Frederic Jameson, Chela Sandoval, and others---contribute theoretical structure to the discussion, which culminates in an analysis of the identification Christian Right women have with the rhetoric of victimhood.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2006.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 208 pages.
Adviser: Debra Jacobs, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Powerful Submission: Popular Texts and the Subjectiv ity of Christian Right Women by Ellen L. Flournoy A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Debra Jacobs, Ph.D. Lynn Worsham, Ph.D. Marilyn Myerson, Ph.D. Elizabeth Hirsh, Ph.D. Date of Approval: September 15, 2006 Keywords: cultural studies, rhet oric, womenÂ’s studies, femini st theory, marxist theory, popular culture, essentialism Copyright 2006, Ellen L. Flournoy
Dedication This dissertation is dedicated to those peacemakers who stretch themselves across the chasm between different worlds. Your b acks may be sore, but the view is divine. And to Karl, who is my bridge from the world of the image to that of the real.
Acknowledgments Creativity is a communal pro cess. Although I am the auth or of this dissertation, I am certainly not the only person who has labor ed over its creation. IÂ’d like to recognize my committee and external chairperson first an d foremost because it is their expertise that verifies the viability of my own work. Were it not fo r their support, I would have neglected to recognize the importance of my own interests and talents. Dr. Debra Jacobs, my supervisor, always took the time to conscientiously help me reconstruct my writing so that it truly communicated my thoughts. It is her fortitude and patience with my quickly repeated new mother hood and transatlantic move that made this degree possible. Dr. Lynn Worsham is respons ible for encouraging the projectÂ’s genesis and theoretical foundation, and it is her voice I heard late in the night when I stopped making sense. Dr. Marilyn Myerson contribut ed a great deal to my thinking regarding feminist methodologies and my own situatedness; I know now that I cannot be an objective observer. What a relief! Dr. Eliz abeth Hirsh and Dr. Sara Crawley provided many intriguing suggestions that preclude my projectÂ’s Â“death by dissertation.Â” There are too many unanswered questions to tie up th e package, so to speak. I must also recognize Dr. Carolyn DiPalma, who was not on my final committee and will humbly say she didnÂ’t do very much at all. However, my work was very much enriched by the notions of modernism and postmodernism she and Kathy Ferguson were working on when I met her, and her emotional presen ce as a mentor guided me through desperate times. I also have to thank Lee Davidson, our graduate program assistant, who was my guide through the ad ministrative jungle. And finally, I thank my parents, w ho faithfully supported this endeavor.
i Table of Contents Abstract iii Gender Negotiations: Essentialism and the Masculinity Crisis 1 Introduction of the Christian Right Woman 2 Popular Culture and the Christian Right: Essentializing Gender to Maintain Male Privilege 4 Oppressive Practices in Â“Tra nsparentÂ” Popular Culture 7 Essentialist Foundations of Christianity: Deriving Power from the Masculinity Crisis 10 Extending Feminist Criticisms of the Masculinity Crisis to the Christian Right WomanÂ’s Support of Gender Coherence 15 Gender Coherence and Judith ButlerÂ’s Notion of Gender Performance 19 The Identity of Christian Right Women: Personal Insight and Critical Investigation 24 Accountability and the View from Within 25 In Theory: Research Conflicts 29 Christian Right Texts and the Construction of Feminine Subjectivity 35 Left Behind: The Madonna/Whore Paradigm and the Masculinity Crisis 40 The Ideological Evolution of the End Times 43 Left Behind: an Anti-Feminist Res ponse to the Mascu linity Crisis 49 Madonna/Whore: a Pervasive Gender Performance 58 Chloe and Irene: the Madonnas of Left Behind 59 Hattie: The Scarlet Whore 63 Christian Right Subjectiv ity Construction and the Left Behind Series 67 Women Readers of Left Behi nd: Negotiating Conflicts 72 The Blessed Assurance and Impossibility of Fixed Identity 74 Dangerous Marks: the Limits of Christian Identity in the Left Behind Series 77 Preparing for Sacrifice with Self-Help Books 81 Bestselling Christian Right Self-H elp Texts: A Focus on Feminine Submission 85 Essentialism: the Foundational Argument in Christian Right Self-Help Books 89 A Dialogue: Judith Butler Â“TalksÂ” with Tim and Beverly LaHaye 95
ii Responsibility Without Authority 98 Cultivating a Womanly Christian Appearance 102 The Depth of the Image in Christ ian Capitalism: Making it Â“FitÂ” 104 The Christian Right WomanÂ’s Reframing of Submission 107 Powerful Caretaking: the Infantilization of Men 113 Incorporating the Therapeutic: a Further Accommodation to Postmodernism 119 The Power of Submission in The Passion of the Christ 124 The Passion Â’s Accommodations to the Culture Industry 130 The Passion and the Madonna Paradigm: Martyrdom, the Ultimate Submission 136 Jesus: a Feminized Martyr-Warri or and a Model for Christian Right Women 137 Mary, the Ultimate Mother (patterned after a man) 143 MaryÂ’s Co-Martyrdom 145 MaryÂ’s Reproductions in Other Female Characters 147 Mary Magdalene, the Reformed Whore 148 Satan, the Androgynous Whore 150 Secondary Mary Reproductions: Claudia and Veronica 152 Community and Entertainment: Beyond the Madonna Paradigm 153 Concerned Women for America: Proof that Christian Right Women are Postmodern Victims 160 Concerned Women for America and th e Face of Christian Right Women 165 The Ethos of CWA and Modernism 166 The Ethos of CWA and Postmodernism 169 CWA and Feminist Frameworks 170 Pragmatic Spirituality 175 The Gender Code of Powerful Submission 177 Christian Consumers 178 Dominant Victims 184 Oppositional Ideologies and the Â“VictimhoodÂ” of Christian Right Women 188 Methodologies of the Oppressed and the Christian Right WomanÂ’s Definition of Â“FamilyÂ” 193 Christian Right Women: Strategic Victims 198 Notes 200 References 203 About the Author End Page
iii Powerful Submission: Popular Texts and the Subjectiv ity of Christian Right Women Ellen L. Flournoy ABSTRACT The Christian Right exerts considerable in fluence over female identity, especially through its members who have emerged as one of the most powerful voting blocks in the nationÂ—the Christian Right woman. Ameri can Christian women, especially those considered to be on the political fringes, ar e virtually ignored in academic endeavors. Given their power, which defies their categor ization as a Â“fringeÂ” group, this academic silence is a gross oversight, especially in li ght of the rise of the Christian Right, which has successfully recruited millions of women to its service. This dissertation analyzes texts of Christ ian popular culture that contribute to the construction of feminine subjectivityÂ—Tim LaHayeÂ’s Left Behind selections from the most popular of Christian womenÂ’ s self-help books, Mel GibsonÂ’s The Passion of the Christ and various online materials availabl e on the website of Concerned Women for America. The consumption of these texts acts as a means through which Christian Right women can support patriarchy through subm ission and affect their own personal transformations by reframing this submission in powerful terms. Most products aimed at and embraced by Christian women encourage a femininity that can be linked to Mary, the perfect mother of Christ. This Madonna paradigm and its accompanying subtext work with the aforementioned Christian texts to pe rpetuate an essentiali zed, yet contradictory portrayal of the feminine. The theory of subjectivity for Christian Right Women offered by this study utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to re veal these womenÂ’s consciousness as a mixture of contradictions. These contradictions co mbine the ideologies of Christianity and capitalism, gender codes both archaic a nd contemporary, and the discourses of modernism and postmodernism into a force that simultaneously subjects these women and supports their personal agency. Ideas from Marxist and feminist thinkersÂ—Louis Althusser, Valentin VoloÂšinov, Judith Butle r, Frederic Jameson, Chela Sandoval, and othersÂ—contribute theoretical st ructure to the discussion, which culminates in an analysis of the identification Christian Right wome n have with the rhetoric of victimhood.
1 Gender Negotiations: Essentialis m and the Masculinity Crisis There are moments in my life when I feel as though a part of me is missing. There are days when I feel so invisible that I canÂ’t remember what day of the week it is, when I feel so manipulated that I canÂ’t remember my own name [. .]. Thos e are the times when I catch sight of my reflection in store windows and am surprised to see a whole person looking back [. .] when my skin becomes gummy as clay and my nose slides around on my face and my eyes drip down to my chin. I have to close my eyes at such times and re member myself, draw an internal picture that is smooth and whole [. .] -Patricia Williams Taken from Â“On Being the Object of Prope rty,Â” this striking narration of loss of self tells an all too familiar story. Although it is not explic itly connected to the creation of subjectivity, it is a frightfu lly accurate depiction of the confused reality women must constantly confront to keep up the prosopoe ia, or face-making, often necessary in the creation and maintenance of self. This cr eation must be perpet ually maintained and reconstructed because the webbed connections between all subjectivi ties require subjects to look to the projected images of others to reflect and prioritize cultural values. These Â“other subjectsÂ” are also i nvolved in the process of pros opoeia, simultaneously gazing into other mirrors and reconstructing their own faces. There is no honest reflection.
2 Simply put, our efforts to Â“save faceÂ” can never adequately c ounteract the gendered production of our faces by our culture. Introduction of the Christian Right Woman One major cultural source of the gender ed production of female identity is Christianity. Specifically, the Christian Ri ght, the politically pow erful fundamentalist branch of more mainline American Christianity, exerts considerable influence over female identity, especially through its female members who have emerged as one of the most powerful voting blocks in the nati onÂ—the Christian Right woman. American Christian women, especially thos e considered to be on the political fringes, are virtually ignored in academic endeavors. Given their power, which defies thei r categorization as a Â“fringeÂ” group, this academic sile nce is a gross oversight, especi ally in light of the rise of the Christian Right, which has successfully recruited millions of women to its service. Voter turn-out for the Christ ian Right constituency is as tounding, and their collective political work has transformed the cultural landscape in many ways so pervasive that these changes are virtually invisible to most Americans. Much of this transformation has been accomplished by Christian Right movements that are run by and for women who comprise groups considered even more academically abject than the Christian Right at large. Part of the problem in theorizing this particular group of American Christian women is the multi-layered complexity of th eir identity politics and their accompanying experiential articulations; th ese articulations are often a tangled contradiction of emotional logic. These contradictions are what most clearly define the internal selves of
3 these women, and I think that their countless works in the world can only be understood within the context of these internal selves a nd their projections into public life, which can be analyzed as subj ectivity and ethos. Contemporary American feminine subject ivity can be illuminated through the study of the popular culture of Christian Right women, whose face-making is a complicated process of masking. This mask ing involves the patchworking of several subjective fabrics in order to construct both a public ethos a nd a private subjectivity that contribute to the conflation of American women at large as autonomous agent and directed object. Christian Right women utili ze fabrics that are created from both modern and postmodern threads and combine them to form a complex web of subjectivity and ethos with a message that is counterintuitive but neverthele ss successfully dispatched in American politics. The Christian Right woman is a powerful fo rce in her community, but most of the time, does not challenge the authority that pr events her taking a leadership role in her church. Often, whether or not she has a car eer, job training, or sec ondary education, she chooses to stay home to manage her household and raise her children and willingly subjects herself to the authority of her husband, even within the confines of the homespace only she knows best. This is mi sleading because her s upport of patriarchy lends to the common mistake of underestim ating the Christian Right woman as a stereotyped submissive who is merely her hus bandÂ’s derivative; although this stereotype is part of the picture, it is only a sma ll part that is intertwined with many other intersections of public and privat e versions of self that defy easy categorization. In fact, it could be said that she even projects a type of feminist aura mo st closely linked to
4 libertarian and cultural feminisms but one that cooperates with patriarchy, indeed, even vociferously supports it. Grass-roots move ments led by these women have successfully targeted and transformed such current poli tical issues as the Morning After Pill, embryonic stem cell research, the John Robe rts Supreme Court Justice Nomination, and the public school debate on teaching evolution and/or intelligent design (Â“CWA: Family Friendly VictoriesÂ”). These women have b een underestimated and ignored long enough. Popular Culture and the Christian Right: Essentializing Gender to Ma intain Male Privilege In many ways no different from the abje ction of women in all spheres, the abjection of the Christian Right woman in the academic arena can be attributed to male privilege. Although there are chinks in its masculine armor, the Christian Right movement at large is dominated by masculine forces and desires that make it easy for anyone attempting to theorize it to discount the feminine currents that are often suppressed, but more powerfully resonant than the very masculine forces that Â“createdÂ” the movement. Often, it is the physical work of the Christian Right women that most effectively responds to the emotional tensi ons between the conservative movement and the rest of America, and it is most certainl y the feminine voices that enunciate the goals and meaning of the movement to others. Fo r example, the articulation of the Â“Family ValuesÂ” slogan devastates the Democratic rhet oric so thoroughly only because of its links with the feminine hearth as wholesome and n ecessary and its pairing with the images and words of American mothers. However, it is the men who Â“take creditÂ” for conservative victories in the public sphere, and it is mos tly men who legislatively follow through with
5 Â“family valuesÂ” policies; the c ontribution of the feminine to conservative victories is rarely recognized. This masculine masking echoes what is the reality in Western cu lture as a whole, where masculine subjectivities are philos ophically and practically privileged at the expense of feminine subjectivities. In The Man Question Kathy FergusonÂ—political science professor, feminist, and anarchist Â—outlines IrigarayÂ’s explanation of this privileging: The subjectivity claimed by men and denied to women typically constitutes the self as bo unded agent in the world. [. .] This subject often designates itself Â‘humanistÂ’ [. .]. Women in male humanist discourse have generally been among those others, consigned to the world of the acted-upon, of otherness colonized in the service of maintaining the sameness of the [male] subject [. .] (38-9) Not only are women the philosophical others in the discourse of huma nism, they have far less power in the more concrete and practic al matters of life, as well. Although many strides have been made in efforts to r ectify the imbalances between men and women, most American women are subordinated in one way or another in the masculinized climate. As a result of inequities in AmericaÂ’s capitalist system, American women as a collective are financ ially subordinate. Often, married women who would choose to continue working must sacrifice their ambiti ons in order to have children because the workworld rarely rewards mothers for their co ntributions to society, and childcare is so expensive that some who try to continue working are forced to become stay-at-home
6 moms because of the impracticalities of a paycheck that cannot even cover childcare costs. And despite claims that America is the land of equal oppor tunity (and the fortyyear-old Equal Pay Act), women still only earn seventy-three cents for every dollar earned by a man (Â“Facts About Pay EquityÂ”). Even those women who are financially independent must live in a poli tical and legislative world that is created and maintained by governmental bodies made up of the mostly white and moneyed males who can afford to play politics. Thus, the overall financia l subordination of women causes a dearth of women-held resources and legislative offices that leads to a political subordination of even those with the money to participate because they cannot maintain a significant collective body. The political subordination of women occurs in all realms of American society, from the private family to public polic y. Despite national movements to change legislative inequities, domestic violence la ws are slanted against victims, who are predominantly women, and often deaths occur as a result. Take, for example, the recent case of Town of Castle Rock, Colorado v. Jessica Gonzales in which the Supreme Court, in a case made a states-rights issue by the Bu sh Administration, decide d seven to two that Gonzales had no right to sue he r local police department for re peatedly failing to enforce a restraining order she held against her hus band, who eventually murdered their three daughters (Â“Gonzales Ruling Endangers Wome n and ChildrenÂ”). Another example of legislation adversely affecti ng women is credit legislation, which is designed around the credit report. Credit reports are meant to pr otect creditors and cannot reflect the financial responsibility of a single mother who cannot possibly churn enough income to accomplish the coveted Â“picket fenceÂ” ra ting. Because financial and political
7 subordination often occur as a result of highly visible pract ices, and these methods of subordination are recognized to have a deleterious effect on all American subjects, there are many ongoing effective movements reacting to these overt methods. The National Organization for Women is one of the larger activist groups dedicated to reversing the trends of financial and political subordinati on of women, and two of their core issues are constitutional equality and economic ju stice (NOWÂ’s Top Priority Issues). Oppressive Practices in Â“TransparentÂ” Popular Culture It might be argued that highly visible oppressive practices such as the ones described here are actually less dangerous than less visible oppressive practices because the invisible foe is hard to spot and hard to fight. More danger ous than the visibly oppressive is the insidious subjection of wome n that occurs within seemingly innocent contexts. Often, though, it is precisely the Â“v isible,Â”Â—the Â“average,Â” the Â“mainstream,Â” the Â“normalÂ”Â—that is ignored for reasons of as sumed visibility, which in fact, renders it a murky, theoretical demilitarized zone. Things that fall in this Â“averageÂ” zone are often considered too transparent to be worthy of analysis. Because of its assumed transparent everyda yness, most of popular culture is taken for granted as part of the capit alist enterprise and therefore, so visible that it becomes theoretically invisible. Popul ar culture bombards us daily in a myriad of ways that perpetuate the subordination of women to men. Take, for example, the archaic cultural ideas surrounding marriage and th e marketing of this lucrativ e enterprise. Without even taking into account the subordi nation of women in the Ameri can dating ritual, begin with the engagement itself, in which the man ha s the power to make his choice of mate
8 apparent through his proposal and marks he r with a piece of expensive jewelry that proclaims his financial viability and protects her from the solicitation of other men. There is no equivalent marking fo r the husband-to-be; he is appa rently free to be solicited until the wedding day, and this often occurs during the legendary bachelor party, which encourages a Â“freeÂ” manÂ’s final fling before committing to the marriage. Then there is the wedding, an expensive affair paid for by the brideÂ’s parents, which is perhaps a throwback to the days of a dowry. The bride wears a costly dress in a color that publicly displays her sexual virtue, and she is Â“given awayÂ” by her father, who, in doing so, passes the responsibility of her upkeep to her spouse. Tradit ionally, she gives up her surname for her husbandÂ’s, and they are often announced as Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, man and wife. Examples such as these both stem from and support the underlying message of biological determinism, one of the most reduc tive influences on feminine subjectivity. For over thirty years, scientific research in many fields has problematized biological essentialism, which is also called biological de terminism. Feminist biologists, such as Lynda Burke and Ann Fausto-Sterling, have de voted much of their academic writing to critiques of biological determinism, a nd sociology has its own opponents of the conservative notion, as well, with renowned researchers Michael Messner and Michael Kimmel. Janet Sayers, a professor of ps ychoanalytic psychology, is also a well-known figure in the academic fight against this pervas ive ideology, and she, as well as all of the others above, recognizes the political ramifica tions of biological essentialism, which is often presented as a Â“comm on senseÂ” or Â“practicalÂ” viewpoint that makes gender relations easier to navigate. Patriarchal so ciety desires the simplicity of creating and
9 relating to known and obviously gendered entities, Â“womenÂ” who are neatly categorized as the Â“otherÂ” side of the gender binary: emo tional, social, nurturing. A womanÂ’s role in society, according to biological essentialismÂ—wh at she does, what she is, what she looks likeÂ—is strictly defined by her body and theref ore, easy to enforce. Her created face, when compared to WilliamsÂ’s face in the opening excerpt, is solid and unmalleable in its historicized collectivity, a mask that turns on its wearer should she try to alter her reflection by existing outside the given ed icts of womanhood. The kind of stability offered by biological essentialism may seem like id eological comfort, but in reality, it is a stultifying trap for both polarized gende rs and all others in between. Even though there exists a substantial body of sociological research counteracting this medical, political, religious, and now popular argument of biological essentialism, American culture has successfully reform ulated these ideas in such supposedly transparent domains as secular se lf-help publishing, like the successful Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus books. Often in these types of essentialized arguments, women are subordinate because it is their natura l and biological role in relation to men. Because it is futile, according to these argum ents, to fight the Â“natural,Â” women should relearn the traditional ways of relating to me n as rational beings. Attempts to fight the Â“naturalÂ” feminine essence result in the gene ral unrest American society witnesses in the divorce rate and the misunderstandings of the gender wars. These self-help books, assisted by the scholarly credentials that grace their covers, sell the methodology by which romantic relations between men and wo men can be simplified through a process of male/female recognition, decoding, and affi rmation that can only be categorically reductive to both subjectivities.
10 Essentialist Foundations of Christianity: Deriving Power from the Masculinity Crisis In Western societies, Christianity is the foundation for so much of culture that it is easy to trace the historical pa th of popular culture Â’s biological essentialism back to Biblical antecedents. From the Eve of Genesis to RevelationÂ’s Whore of Babylon, women are separate and othered from men; they are represen ted only through their bodies, emotional propensities, and relationship to the hearth. The consistency of these representations holds rh etorical water only because of the perpetually derivative status of the female Biblical characters in relation to their male counterparts. Representations of relations between women and men are an integral part of such essentialist arguments, and these Biblical representations are nicely re packaged as new material for the seemingly secular American marketplace. This essentiali sm is reflected in American politics, which have undergone a shift to the right in recent years that is even more pronounced since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Funding for social pr ograms meant to fight the perpetuation of womenÂ’s oppression is bei ng withdrawn after decades of successful implementation. Even the separation of c hurch and state is coming under attack as President BushÂ’s faith-based initiatives take hold. His administration withdrew international support for Planned ParenthoodÂ’ s condom distribution programs, promotes abstinence-based sex educati on, and allocates taxpayer m oney to send Bibles with camouflage covers to soldiers in Iraq. Most recently, September of 2005 saw a landmark decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the right of religious organizations to hire and fire based on religious beliefs and practices, ev en if the salaries of those in question are derived from federal funding. In this partic ular case against the Salvation Army, one of
11 the institutional charges against the former employees was their refusal to name gay coworkers. These kinds of public policies are only po ssible because Evangelical Christianity is getting more Â“airtimeÂ” than ever before, and societal pr essure is restricting the religious freedom of other religious groups that are not classifiably Christian. The evolution of world events, in conjunction w ith the American masculinity crisis and the discourse of feminism, has created a social sinkhole that the Christian Right hopes to fill with their vision of the world. The masculinity crisis, which some histor ians think stems from a loss of purpose in the male workworld, has only furthered the purpose of the Christian Right as it seeks to opportunistically reshape America. Even as men rule the world, they begin to see themselves as vulnerable victims of forces beyond their control. Frightened young males are becoming more and more confused about Â“how to be a manÂ” (xiv), at least according to Michael Messner, a leading sociologist in the field of masculinity studies. Messner asserts that instead of taking advantage of this historic opportunity to revamp the idea of masculinity, many of these men, young and old alike, are choosing to empower themselves by reclaiming Â“their Â‘naturalÂ’ and Â‘God-givenÂ’ positions as leaders [. .] within organizations that have defined themse lves as male onlyÂ” (xiv). Their separation from women as they Â“organize to assuage th eir own fearsÂ” by joining popular Christian Right organizations like the Promise Keepers may result in a Â“[collective] positioning of women, especially feminists, as convenient scapegoatsÂ” (xiv). According to Pat Robertson, leader of The Christian Coalition, "Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbiansÂ” (Â“Christian Coalition of Ameri ca: Right Wing WatchÂ”). One can almost
12 understand how men in crisis can come to the wrong c onclusions about their own situation when sensationalist statements such as this ar e commonplace in mainstream discourse; certainly these kinds of statemen ts cloud the real issues men face in the twenty-first century world. There have been several waves of industry downsizing, high levels of unemployment, and economic tremors that have contributed to the masculinity crisis, but the effect of them all have been legions of male subjects who feel emasculated, as documented by the feminist journalist, Susan Faludi, in her popular text, Stiffed One man, fired from his longtime job at McDonnell-D ouglas, explains it this way: Â“I. Feel. IÂ’ve. Been. Castrated.Â” Fa ludi goes on to explain that most Â“downsizedÂ” men she spoke with are not able to directly connect their emasculation with their employerÂ’ s rejection of them, so their scapegoats are Â“another sex, an other nationality, another raceÂ” (Faludi 65). These men who feel less than competent ha ve sons, who re-experience their fathersÂ’s crises in their own ways. Thus, not only does the Christian Right ha ve the advantage of the old rumblings of an implicit climate of fear due to the masculinity crisis it is also working within a very explicit climate of fear due to the changing face of Ameri ca since the inception of the War on Terrorism and Operation Iraqui Freedom The masculinity crisis does not occur in a vacuum, so AmericaÂ’s explicit fear cannot help but affect the masculinity crisis in a way that allows certain religious political groups to assert an agenda that promises security through absolutism. By followi ng the alleged commands of God through the fulfillment of paternal obliga tions to women, certain men can regain a sense of knowing what to do in their religion and in their rela tionships at a time when everything else is
13 fuzzy. Everything has become so dangerous in th e current climate of fear that this point of view encourages men as family leaders to be even more actively decisive (read: unilateral) than before. Fulfilling this ro le gives them something to do other than ruminate on their helpless struggles with what ever situation is being heralded as the end of their world. The security of a patria rchal jukebox and sockhop wo rld that was so easy to navigate never existed, but that is beside the po int. What is important is that it is now part of the American myth, and in this myth it is easier to relate to the Â“othersÂ” if everyone is bound by a classificatio n that is coherently gender ed. Even more important to any discussion of Christian Right politics and gender is the unbelievable fact that it is one of their most fervent asse rtions that gender issues are the paramount reason for all of the worldÂ’s trouble. This is expl ained by Linda Kintz, author of Between Jesus and the Market and a specialist in the logics of re presentation and cu ltural politics: It is this confusion [of gender id entities] that causes homosexuality, divorce, sexual abuse, promiscuit y, social awkwardness, emotional distress, and suicide. It has also le d directly to a much larger national crisis of identity, for just as individuals require a firm, stable identity based on absolute gender differences legitimated by God, so too does the nation. (19) According to this notion, all sorts of social Â“illsÂ” can be solved through a rectification of gender upheaval, and this conservative reordering will have a rippling effect throughout all of Amer ican society. For the Christ ian RightÂ’s purposes, gender Â“confusionÂ” is the best kind of scapegoat b ecause it is a phenomenon that can always be
14 blamed due to its unshakeable permanence and vi sibility, but one that will never rise up and strike back as a unified force. Furt hermore, gender confusion is a convenient scapegoat because resources need not ever be spent on actions that can never be taken against foes so entrenched in society that they are the root of all ev ils, even terrorism. In a statement that was later retracted, Jerry Fa lwell went so far to say that 9/11 was a punishment meted out by God to punish America for all of the gender upheaval of feminism and homosexuality. We can find evidence of feelings of ma sculine vulnerability by looking at the behaviors they elicit, particularly consumer behaviors. Take, for example, the highly publicized admonitions to protect loved ones fr om airborne terrorist threats with plastic sheeting and duct tape (Â“Duct Tape Sales Rise Amid Terror FearsÂ”) or the reaction to the countless truck and car advertis ements (General Motors, Fo rd, Chrysler) that link auto buying with patriotism. WardÂ’s Communicatio ns, an international provider of auto industry information, cites the final months of 2001 as record breaking times for auto sales (Â“WardÂ’s ForecastsÂ”). The federal gov ernment and its representatives indirectly constitute another such capita list enterprise, and they, too, benefit from the hysteria felt by their subjects because it en ables them to further thei r own hidden agendas through protective claims and an asser tion of their own accessibility to solutions: the fueling of the economy through patriotic consumerism, te rrorist alert notifica tion systems, budget overhauls for defense, and pre-emptive acts of war, to name a few. Iris Marion Young, who was a professor of po litical science at the University of Chicago, explains this phenomenon as the masc ulinizing of the state in her article titled, Â“The Logic of Masculinist Protection: Reflec tions on the Current Security State.Â” This
15 discussion relocates the subjectiv ity of the state within the re alm of the patriarchal family unit, with the state performing the role of dominator and protector of the feminized citizens who, through their dependence and obe dience, perpetuate its power: Â“We are to accept a more authoritarian and paternalistic state power, wh ich gets its support partly from the unity a threat produces and our gratitude for protection. At the same time that it legitimates authoritarian power over citizen s internally, the logic of masculinist protection justifies aggre ssive war outsideÂ” (2). This aggr essive war can also be seen as an attempt to religiously globalize the world; the United States gove rnment is so linked with Christianity that its aggressive war is connected, for many Americans, to the paternal Christian duty to br ing GodÂ’s freedom to the rest of the world. The Bush AdministrationÂ’s rhetoric is also overtly religious, which proves the success of the Christian Right as the new dominant in mainst ream popular culture at large. It can also be argued that the stateÂ’s pa ternally dominant role at home further confuses and infantilizes a society of men already in the th roes of a gender identity crisis, if we believe the evidence provided us by Messner and Faludi. Extending Feminist Criticisms of the Masculinity Crisis to the Christian Right WomanÂ’s Support of Gender Coherence MessnerÂ’s observation that young men are confused about the practice of manhood bears out in his studies of masculinizin g movements of all sorts. WhatÂ’s most interesting about his studies is that none of the movements he analyzes attempt a reformation of the masculine id entity; all look for a way to re instate an old ideal. This reactionary effort is truest of Christian menÂ’s movements, like Promise Keepers. According to Faludi, Promise Keepers encourag es men to surrender to Jesus in order to
16 then Â“reclaim a new masculine role in the fa mily, not as breadwinners but as spiritual pathfindersÂ” (240) who submit to Christ so th at they can install themselves in their natural position of familial dominance. However, FaludiÂ’s case studies of individual Promise Keepers portray men w ho are struggling to maintain control of anything, even themselves. One small groupÂ’s inspiration is Mike, a marital success story who allows Faludi to spend time with him and his wife Margaret, at their home in Monrovia, California. Faludi discerns that the organizationÂ’s injunction that women Â‘submitÂ’ to their husbands received only the barest of lip service [. .] Margaret was clearly willing to play along with the Promise Keepers fiction of male Â‘servant leadership,Â’ but what did she get out of the bargain? Like so many of the wives I met in Promise Keepers, she shaped the groupÂ’ s tenets to fit her own needs, and while she might have 1950s-style expectations of support from her husband, she also wanted 1990s-style independence for herself. (246-7) Margaret is actually the triumphant i ndividual reborn from a dull chrysalis of physical abuse and domination; she is transfor med into an independent woman who is in charge of herself and her marriage. Her husbandÂ’s performance as a Promise Keeper has cured him of his abusive behaviors, and alt hough Margaret is not a busive, she and Mike have merely an inverted rela tionship instead of a new one. She allows him to talk about his role as their family leader, but she is the one at the helm, as she enthusiastically explains: Â“Now, I still balance the checkbook, but itÂ’s his respons ibility to make sure that IÂ’m taken care of financiallyÂ” (246). Mike and Margaret also speak of him giving up control of purchasing decisions that were once sources of conflict in their marriage,
17 although Margaret has not limited her pursuit of things that are against MikeÂ’s wishes. However, the reference to Promise Keepers as a marriage-saving inst itution is a constant motif in their lives, and Mike is revered at the meetings as a poster child for the empowering movement. The faade of Mi keÂ’s empowerment is never openly recognized, however; it is revealed without the coupleÂ’s discernment through FaludiÂ’s observations and interviews. According to Messner and Faludi and many others deserving of the attention their research warrants, Mike and men like him are suffering under the yoke of a masculinity crisis created by a contemporaneity that endangers manhood. Although many of these researchers are pro-feminist theorists who do not excuse men for bad behavior due to their subjection under the limitati ons of this crisis, the mere term, Â“masculinity crisis,Â” obscures the root of these menÂ’s problems. The environment of rapid change and destabilization (the postmodern reality of coun tless international individuals) is suffered by everyone, and calling this a Â“masculinity crisisÂ” is just a new way of committing the old crime of framing the world in masculine terms. Doing so precludes the recognition of the fact that men are not the only ones suffe ring under these conditions, and to ignore this is to create the discourse of a crisis that is strictly a masculine one masking the reality underneath. Current societal conditions require many s ubjects to rework their identities in order to function in a more fr actured environment. That th is subjective work is now a necessity for survival is either rewarding or ruinous, depending on oneÂ’s worldview. Being in a position to widely disperse their own ideological discourse the Christian Right is manipulating the masculinity crisis (and the wider identity crisis) as they
18 simultaneously incorporate it into the Ch ristian consciousness. This occurs in conjunction with a recreation of Christianity its elf meant to fill the holes of contemporary times so effectively that individuals are drawn to the ideology as an answer to all of the problems of the age. The simp lification of gender roles throu gh a reassertion of Biblical essentialized notions of femini nity and masculinity is a part of this movement, which calls for a more dominant masculine role in the family. The masculine subjectivity, whether or not it is dominant, is not created in a vacuum, and it is dependent on the performance of feminine subjectivity, which is also a conduit for capitalistic enterprise This is especially true wh en that feminine subjectivity identifies with the Christian lifestyle, wh ich provides yet another entry point into the subject as consumer. Christian consumer ism has a profound effect on women of the Christian Right, who are usually the primary purchasers for their families. These women are constructing themselves as Christians in a society that classifies according to consumption patterns, and the ideology of Ch ristianity has metamo rphosed into a conduit through which billions of dollars are being made marketing and selling products, goods, and services. It is not a st retch to say that for many peopl e, Christianity has become conflated with capitalismi, and in order to be a memb er of the Christian ideology, members must adhere to its purchasing patte rns. An example of this phenomenon that affects the construction of fe male subjectivity would be pr oducts used to gender an individual as female. Popular Christianity insists on a strict gendering paradigm, so many self-help books concerning marriage and se xuality counsel readers to traditionally gender themselves using makeup, ha irstyle, and dress in order to solve spiritual problems.
19 Margaret and Mike are no exception. Ma rgaret recites to Fa ludi a birthday poem she wrote for Mike, and it names him her knight her rescuer, and she is the princess. Their revelations about their relationship, howev er, show Mike to be merely MargaretÂ’s monetary savior (246-7). Their spending pref erences are secure once Mike is a Promise Keeper. His newfound financial success and re sponsibility secure hi m the princess, who allows him the Promise Keeper leadership role in name only. MargaretÂ’s performance as princess, then, allows him to continue as a knigh t, but in truth, Margar et rescues herself. Like Mike and Margaret, the Ch ristian Right depends for its su rvival on a strict ideal of essentialized and coherent gender as a sacred and performative text, and this gender ideal is furthered through its confluence with consumption. Gender Coherence and Judith ButlerÂ’s Notion of Gender Performance But what is coherent gender? And how can anything as c ontradictory as the gender relations between Mike a nd Margaret be called Â“coherentÂ”? This is a concept best understood through Judith ButlerÂ’s theoretical description of gender as a performance because it most effectively explains the ins and outs of gender fashion, so to speak. Butler, a Marxist gender theorist, utilizes th e phenomenological discourse of actsÂ—reality is created by subjects via their Â“language, gesture, and all manner of symbolic social signsÂ” (415)Â—to assert that ge nder is a performative act instea d of a natural behavior and could thus be performed di fferently. Her thesis calls into question the common misconception that gender status and ge nder experiences are givens depending on biological sex.
20 Basing her argument on the theses of bot h Merleau-Ponty and de Beauvoir, who argue that the body is an histor ical location and situation, Butl er insists that Â“One is not simply a body [. .] one does oneÂ’s bodyÂ” (417) Historical ideas of gender change from generation to generation and from location to location, so a gendered body becomes a sign of culture at a particul ar time and in a particular place, and an individual who deviates from his or her cultureÂ’s idea of appropriate gender performance is punished. The act of gender, then, is a coerced performa nce with real consequences for deviants. Because this coercion is so much a part of societyÂ’s collective subj ectivity, its origin as performance is shielded from view. EveryoneÂ’s performance is so credible that even they do not know that it is coerced and so often repe ated that it is always already natural and so transparently average that it is invisible. This is not to say that individuals do not have some agency in choosing their individual gend er performance but that their individuality is constructed within the confin es of a powerful system of prop riety. Part of this process is the system of compulsory heterosexuali ty, which guarantees the reproduction of the gender system. Butler calls for a theoretical foundation which recogni zes that the gender act expresses nothing that is in side the individual but rather something that is outside in society. This dichotomous, heterosexual gender system requires that contemporary men perform their roles in strictly prescribed ways that are historically cyclical. Even though women began to merge into the workforce several generations ago, and even though many households need two incomes to survive, often men still consider themselves solely responsible for the protection and provisi on of their families. Christian menÂ’s movements, although they might tweak tradit ional roles (from breadwinner to spiritual
21 guide), are simply reinscribing the old ideals of performance that are nigh impossible for many men to accomplish but insisted upon just th e same. The result is that these ideals often become meaningless symbols of masculin ity, further highlighting the failures of the men who aspire to them. And women, like Marg aret, are co-conspirators in the charade. Instead of encouraging a revolutionary tran sformation in their pa rtners, these women figure out ways to resist with in the confines of this id eological system and are so successful that the experience transforms them while simultaneously imprisoning their male counterparts within the fiction. In many cases, the de rivative status of women to men is reversed, although this is never rev ealed on the open stage bu t rather has to be inferred from Christian Right te xts. ButlerÂ’s theory of gender performance is enacted in such an exaggerated fashion in this scenario that the dramas of Christian couples like Mike and Margaret are almost parodies of ButlerÂ’s ideas. An important part of many feminine perf ormances is gendered consumerism, such as appearance maintenance, the financial re quirements of certain stereotypical roles (MargaretÂ’s princess), an d in the case of Christian Right women, the purchase of certain products that mark the buyer as an evangelical Many commodities marketed to Christian women have particular themes that work with in the confines of th e ideal performance of fundamentalist femininity and construct s ubjectivity through these narrow paradigms, which are essentialized versions of woma nhood. Christian Right women embrace these strictly disciplined identities as welcome subj ective models to strive toward, even though the choices are limited and inter-related. Most products aimed at Christian women encourage a femininity that can be linked to Ma ry, the perfect mother of Christ, or one of her saintly attributes, name ly submission and martyrdom. Although the masculinity
22 crisis encourages the perpetuation of thes e identity themes and is the background for much of the current gender performance of Christian Right women, theirÂ’s is the true story for my purposes, and the men who seem to be in charge are only analyzed in light of their reference to the women who prop them up. Christian Right women transform themse lves largely thr ough American-style consumerism. The pressure to consume is compounded by a requirement to mark oneself as Christian by consuming Christian-themed pr oducts, and this pressu re merges with the considerable pressures of outdated gender pe rformance and the support of patriarchy. These pressures have enormous affects on s ubjectivity construction and create a psychic confluence in Christian Right women that de serves to be unpacked. One of the most influential ways these women buttress both patriarchy and the masculinity crisis is through the consumption of popular Christia n texts that not only empower men and construct feminine subjectivit y, but also create a form for unspoken resistance like that we see in the case of Mike and Margaret. Most of these popular texts pr ovide particular subjective building blocks that very often support one or more of the three aspect s of the feminine Christian identity: the Madonna paradigm, submission, and martyrdom. The Madonna paradigm is the ethereal epitome of woman that is mythologized in th e persona of the mother of Christ. Its perpetuation in Christian texts constructs the ideal against which all women, especially Christian women, are measured. Like most examples of essentialism, the Madonna paradigm is portrayed as a simple and natu ral role, when it is in fact a complex and oxymoronic identity to which no earthly woma n can successfully aspire. The Madonna is a virgin-child, yet a mother, both supernat ural and earthly. Sh e is supplicant and
23 protector, follower and leader, always obedi ent, but supremely powerful. She embodies only everything that is good and holy, and that is why it is impossible to become like her. Most often, she is dichotomously paired with the Whore, who is lewdly sexual without a trace of the virginÂ’s innocen ce or the glow of motherhood. The Whore is shrouded in lustful desires meant to deceive and sway i nnocents from their chosen path. Christian Right texts often portray these two paradigms as the only choices for feminine identity; anyone who does not choose the Madonna must choose the Whore. The achievement of the MadonnaÂ’s feminine ideal can only be accomplished through submission and martyrdom, which are focus of many Christian Right texts, although often not explicitly so. Ultimately, a ll Christians are to submit totally to the will of God because the Christian faith usually teaches that oneÂ’s purpose can only be met after a surrendering of oneÂ’s own will to that of the divine power. In a Christian marriage, however, this becomes complicated, because according to many interpretations of Christian texts, a womanÂ’s submission to God occurs within the context of her marriage through her submission to her husband. According to many, a wife who refuses to submit to the will of her husband cannot be surrendering her will to God; husbands are earthly representatives of the divine. Martyrdom is the ultimate submission and is modeled for Christians in the story of Christ, who is often provided as the fi gure for womenÂ’s emula tion. Women who seek martyrdom are not actually seeki ng literal death, but rather a figurative death of the self meant to strip oneÂ’s identity of all pride, w ill, and resistance. In a marriage in which a woman believes in submission and in which her husband abuses the power she grants him, a loss of self is surely the wifeÂ’s fa te. Women can become figures of Christian
24 martyrdom without being marri ed through extreme immersion in good works or anything else that perpetuates a denial of the self What problematizes the notions of both submission and martyrdom is that the emulation of Christ could very well be regarded as an empowering process for any Christian who ch ooses to so frame it. There is an old fundamentalist hymn that speaks of the Â“pow er, wonderworking power in the precious blood of the lamb,Â” and the motif of powerful submission, sacrifice, and martyrdom echoes throughout much of trad itional Christianity. This theme has been effectively harvested by the creators of many texts ab sorbed by the Christian Right woman and encourages a certain sort of femininity that allows women to negotiate some complicated terrain in order to balan ce subjective contradictions. The Identity of Christian Right Women: Personal Insight and Critical Investigation I have personal reasons for interrogati ng the themes of Madonna, submission, and martyrdom as powerful forces that partic ipate in constructing and maintaining the identity of Christian Right women. During my early childhood, I was heavily indoctrinated in right-wing Pentecostal te achings. Until I was six, my immediate and extended family was intimately involved in wh at was once a separatist church and still is a fundamentalist Pentecostal denomination, the Church of God of Prophecy (CGP). Its congregation is made up of working class, mostly uneducated, and often poor, families. My father was an occasional preacher, and my mother was a song leader and childrenÂ’s teacher; both were young church leaders and looked upon with admiration as exemplars of CGP godliness. Even after my mother divorced and remarried, and we joined my
25 doctor stepfatherÂ’s moderate Methodist churc h, I continued to be influenced by the CGP, even though I wasnÂ’t a regular attendee. I was raised in a spiritual mi asma of contradictory forces My religious training is even more contradictory than most contra sting denominationsÂ—Cat holic and Protestant, for exampleÂ—because my training mixes doctrine, lifestyle, and class. I canÂ’t remember a time when I wasnÂ’t watching women negotiate the complicated subjective terrain staked out by the Christian Right. Because fundament alism was such a large part of my most formative years, I canÂ’t simply erase its subjective effects by c onsciously choosing to believe and behave differently. I am driven to interact with fundamentalism, and my decision to study these women is, in reality, a compulsion. It stems from a need to reconcile my interlocked desire s to both separate myself fr om and identify with these women. Regardless of, perhaps because of, my emotional ambivalence, my intentions are to conduct a sympathetic cr itique using mainly Marxist an d feminist theoretical tools in combination with my own insight, to an alyze the collective subjectivity of this complicated group. Accountability and the View from Within My parents were raised fr om pre-adolescence in the CG P and met one another at Tomlinson College, which was founded by the CGPÂ’s founder and provided an environment where parents could send their ch ildren to be educated without ending their separation from the rest of so ciety. Both my father and mother received degrees in Christian education, and while they were th ere, were voted Mr. and Miss Tomlinson College, an honor that bespoke to their spiritu al correctness according to the strict CGP
26 doctrine, as well as their abil ity to minister to others. After graduation, they undertook mission work in Canada and eventually settled down in regular jobs, so my father could take on preaching responsibiliti es at a CGP near Atlanta, Georgia. My mother began nursing school, and I was born. Within two years, their divorce was legal, and my mother and I began the long process of subjec tive reformation that would result in us leaving the CGP and rejecting its fundamentalist lifestyle. One doesnÂ’t easily choose to leave such a church. My mother and I were thoroughly ensconced in the chur chÂ’s culture; all of our socialization was done there, and almost every decision in our lives had to be made through the churchÂ’s frame of reference. Separating from that culture wasn Â’t easy, even given the circumstances in which my mother found herself. My father le ft my mother for another man. Apparently, he had only married in an attempt to Â“cur eÂ” himself of homosexuality, but the church blamed my mother, nonetheless. My parent sÂ’s divorce was a necessity, but as a result, my mother went from a prominent Madonna to a pariah Whore. According to the thought of the CGP, a woman once married could never be without her husband again because her physical being couldnÂ’t resist th e lure of the flesh. No matter what my mother said or how she behaved, everyone thought a young divorcee was promiscuous and committing adultery against her husband, from whom no divorce papers could ever separate her. Furthermore, her decisi on to divorce, and especially, to remarry, condemned her, my stepfather, me, and their fu ture children, to Hell for participating in such an adulterous and unholy enterprise. Even though my mother had always believed this philosophy, too, because it was part of the churchÂ’s teaching, she was able to reject it once she was in the position to
27 prove it false. She was able to reject it but not the church itself. Only when forced did she abdicate her membership, which left my grandmother to navigate complicated terrain because once again, the CGP was enforcing an inapplicable rule. My mother was supposed to be ostracized by her family beca use of her Â“decisionÂ” to leave the flock. Fortunately, my grandmother was able to em power herself and chose to openly support my mother while simultaneously choosing to stay in the church. My immediate family and I were and occasio nally, still are, subjected to religious practices of differing degrees of coercive force that designate d us as others who were in need of spiritual intervention. Members of the congregation, especially family members, engaged in manipulative behaviors, such as physical breakdowns akin to epileptic seizures, the forcible Â“laying on of hands Â” in unannounced prayer without permission, and countless abusive conversations aimed at bringing us all back from what many consider the depths of sin. Our reactions have varied over the years, as has our willingness to subject ourselves to this treatment, but even now, when we least expect it, someone will approach us in public with a re quest for a quick, collective prayer. What was especially confusing to me as a child and later as a young adult, was the congregationÂ’s fervent desire to Â“fixÂ” my mother, who was forced out of her marriage and out of her church home against her will. It has never been clear what the CGP would have prescribed to my mother as an acceptabl e course of action to redeem herself, and it was many years before my mother was able to reconcile herself with grateful and guiltless acceptance to her escape from this environment. My motherÂ’s and grandmotherÂ’s negotiations, like my own, last ed a long time, and perhaps they are still with us in the decisions we make and our view s of ourselves and each other. Only in the
28 details of our lives can those questions be answered, but we have certainly been changed by a force that is also changing the country. Many Americans, academics and political pund its alike, are at a loss to explain whatÂ’s happening when evangelical Christ ianity, which has countless fundamentalist categories like the CGPÂ’s brand of Pentecost alism, comes into contact with American politics. ItÂ’s not as simple as the dichot omy presented by the notion of culture war, but that rhetoric is powerfully e ffective; good versus evil is conc ise and sharp, especially to those religious conservative s who feel that God is on their side. What everyone, including the Democratic Party, is just beginning to figure ou t is that devout spirituality and a revolutionary desire to change the world are the forces moving beneath the surface. The stage hands of the Christian Right have been working behind the scenes for several decades, preparing the American set for this ve ry moment. It could be that the props are all in place, and the actors are made up and co stumed just offstage, waiting to take their places when the curtain rises. This point of view seems paranoid, a nd thatÂ’s precisely why the powerful constituency of religious fundamentalists re presented by public figures like Pat Robertson have been so successful in creating this se t. No one takes them seriously, and this underestimation of their influence may be the very thing that provi des the energy for the powerful spotlights that are beginning to shine forth from the darkness, one by one. Perhaps televangelists like Jerry Falwell are decoys, l oud and flamboyant performers meant to distract the astute from what is happening behind the curtain. Americans are just beginning to ask, Â“Just what is going on back there?Â” Some say fundamentalist Christians are organizing, but theyÂ’re al ready organized. Some may say theyÂ’re
29 recruiting, but over half the country already takes part in their movement, many without realizing just how far to the political right it is. ItÂ’s quite possible that those Christian extremists in charge are all behind that curt ain, sitting in the dar k, poised and ready to jump out and scare the living daylights out of all of the rest of us. WhatÂ’s happening is more profound than any one personÂ’s stor y about their exit from fundamentalism. These tiny churches th at no one has heard of are microcosms that represent whatÂ’s happening in this country at largeÂ—small groups of invisible people with the faith to move mountains are changi ng the topography of their world one stone at a time, often without critically examining th eir goals or motivations. These stalwart workers believe in what they do so strongly th at they can see no alte rnative other than the spiritual collective action in which they partic ipate. Most dangerous ly, their logic is a confluence of desire and anci ent directive text that beco mes, for them, unquestionable and sacred. This holy mix results in a worl dview that becomes a moral given because its circular self-affirmation answers all of its own questions. In contrast to generations past, this worldview is one of polit ical transformation, rather than separatism, and I witnessed that particular transforma tion firsthand. As a child, I watched private muddy river baptisms and heard voices singing gospel a nd speaking in tongues, and these encoded behaviors were followed by a luxurious lunch at which people argued for participation in worldly politics; after all, many sa id, God Himself is a conservative. In Theory: Research Conflicts The fundamentalist background of my most formative y ears, even though I have rejected its training, tenets, and lifestyle, affects my d ecision to study Christian Right
30 women and the decisions I make about how to conduct my studies of them. The decision to disavow my early spiritual training is in itself a reworking of my subjectivity that cannot help but influence everyt hing I interpret. I can only make decisions from within the altered frames of the culture I was provide d, as well as the culture I choose to provide for myself. I like to think that th e latter is equally as formative. I have chosen to be a feminist graduate st udent trained in litera ry analysis who has migrated to Cultural Studies, which is decide dly Marxist. This in fluences my project a great deal, too. From an Alt husserian perspective, Christ ian ideology must reproduce its spiritual labor power in the form of believers in order to guarante e its own perpetuation. Because the average population no longer relies on the Church itself for answers in the all-encompassing way that was prevalent in bygone eras, it is becoming increasingly common for the Christian Church to re ly on non-traditional methods of member recruitment in order to guarantee its own futu re. The Christian Right has an especially vibrant and multi-faceted methodology for count eracting what it sees as an American secularization. One piece of this plan is to actively recreate reality through popular culture. With the mediaÂ’s help, members of these cultural movements portray themselves as representative of the mainstream and are often accepted as such, even when they are far from the center. Partly because of such implicit campaigns, the Church is enjoying a revival of influence that reinforces its status as a relevant ideology. One way an ideology can guarantee its own relevance and perpetuation is by adapting to the needs of its adherents as it si multaneously creates them as subjects. There has been an evolutionary shift in the ideo logy of Christianity to fulfill the needs of Christian consumers, and this shift has resu lted in a diversity of texts believers can
31 purchase in order to mark themselves as memb ers of this ideological group. These texts, such as What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD) pr oducts and self-help books on everything from finance to romance, are all created fr om the ingredients of spiritual myth and contemporary culture, and this myth/culture combination results in profoundly effective tools with which to attract new participants. The womenÂ’s movement within evange lical Christianity is attracting unexpectedly large numbers of women fo rmerly thought untouchableÂ—non-Southern suburbanites ensconced, as Glenn Shuc k, specialist in religious studies, describes them Â“amid an endless sea of asphalt and strip malls, punctuated occasionally with Â‘master plannedÂ’ lakes and golf cour sesÂ” (Shuck 24). One of th e mysteries of the evolving Christian Right woman concerns her utiliza tion of the myths of Christian ideology to refashion herself as a subject-agent suitable for the postmodern environment in which she finds herself. One of the reasons these wo men are often not taken seriously is because they are misunderstood to be akin to support personnel, administrative assistants for the Â“real workers,Â” the men at their tables, the pastors at their pulpits and the legislators fighting for their legislative goals. These wo men are powerful agents in certain spheres; Concerned Women for America, or CWA (supposedly the nationÂ’s largest public policy organization for women), is an excellent example of powerful women internationally facilitating the political changes that they want to see. However, whatÂ’s bewildering to many is the decision most Christian Right wo men make regarding th e abdication of their own agency in the realms in which they would be assumed to be most powerfulÂ—the church, and especially the home. Countle ss individual women are remarkably antifeminist, and many Christian womenÂ’s groups (C WA, particularly) have as part of their
32 platform the denunciation of a ll forms of the feminist movement. This, along with other machinations apparently meant to preserve th e patriarchal power status quo in reference to class, race, and sexuality, cause these women to be stereotyped in a decidedly unfavorable light by more moderate American s. The enigma of the Christian Right womanÂ’s power and submission is the majo r tripwire for many of my analytical difficulties and has become a foundation for my research. Like Cathleen Armstead, author of Â“Wr iting Contradictions: Feminist Research and Feminist Writing,Â” a study of white, worki ng class women, I find myself in conflict. I certainly recognize that many of the prevalent stereotype s of Christian Right women bear out upon closer examinati on, but at the same time, I r ecognize that the situation of these women is more complex than it looks. As a writer, I certainly have an agenda, and it is feminist, so I canÂ’t avoid looking at th e texts that influence Christian Right women through feminist eyes. IÂ’m sta unchly anti-conservative and find that most of the tenets of conservatism run contrary to my most deep-sea ted emotional and intellectual beliefs. At the same time, I feel a certain loyalty to th ese women, not because I agree with them, but because I understand some of the feelings that bring them to their absolutist conclusions. I understand that most of the time, these wome n are guided by an inte nse desire to do the right thing, not just for themselves, but for th eir community at large. And IÂ’ve seen with my own eyes the amount of workÂ—intellectua l, emotional, and physicalÂ—that is exerted in the search for what they truly believe will be a loving world of justice. Most of all, I identify with the emotion that motivates most intensely spiritual people; there is something connecting all of us that makes it worthwhile to try to affect change in a seemingly brutal universe.
33 Because of my ambivalent identific ation with these women, I attempt a sympathetic portrayal in my an alysis. ItÂ’s not enough to simply reinstate with some new insight the common stereotypes that preclude any real grappl ing with the contradictions of these women. It would be easy to recreate them in order to fit some criteria of my analysis, and I fear IÂ’m already suffering from the difficulties Armstead speaks of when she says she is Â“working through the aesthe tic and political difficulties of achieving a balanced account, one poised between [her] knowledge of social st ructural conditions (and feminism) and these womenÂ’s experientia l knowledgesÂ” (632). One of my goals may also be in direct opposition to femini st ideals because I hope to recast these patriarchally anti-feminist women in light of their perpetuation of a strange, new form of feminism. These women aspire to a certain feminist vision, even as they eschew and denigrate American feminism. But is it fair of me to pin the label of feminist on Christian Right women when both groups consider the other to be their antithesis? IsnÂ’t that the worst kind of appropriation? Armstead gets around this difficulty by cal ling her subjects Â“protofeministsÂ” (632) because she interprets their contradictory e xpressions to be critiques of gender relations combined with a belief that feminism is an ti-male and anti-family. IÂ’m not comfortable with the condescension behind the term, Â“proto feminist.Â” Furthermore, Christian Right women, although they do share some of the problematic characteristics of ArmsteadÂ’s subjects, are situated differently from many of them. All of Armst eadÂ’s subjects are in the workforce, and some comment on gende r inequality between working women and men. Many Christian Right wo men are not involved in careers outside of their homes and immediate communities, and I have certa inly not seen any critiques of gender
34 relations in the popular Christian texts IÂ’m studying. On the contrary, many Christian Right womenÂ’s groups, like Concerned Women fo r America, belittle egalitarian efforts as unnecessary and downright un-American. Ho wever, these women practice politics and motherhood in many ways that are in direct co rrelation to certain feminist values. For example, politically successful Christian Ri ght womenÂ’s groups can be ideologically linked to both liberal feminists because of a staunch belief in the American legislative system, as well as radical cultural feminism, wh ich is often accused of the same kinds of essentializing one finds in the foundati ons of Christian Right schools of thought. Just because Christian Right women ar e powerful agents in the world, are a powerful political constituency, and share some characteristics with certain brands of feminism, I donÂ’t label them feminists, and this is another problematic facet of my project. Naming becomes a reductive a nd degrading practice when an outside Â“authorityÂ” claims the power to do so, es pecially when the naming would be a re-naming that would be irately refused. It is admittedly difficult to avoid imposing my frames of reference while simultaneously presenting my analysis of these womenÂ’s patterns of behavior and actions in the world. Kintz explains discrepancies in the Chri stian Right womanÂ’s anti-feminism. She claims that Christian Right texts resolve the contradictions of ideal femininity with the politically active Christian warrior woman by cl aiming that the desire to fight stems from the more germinal and natural desire to nurtu re and protect the child ren of her family. This original desire of motherhood protects the Christian woman from being masculine and unnatural like the feminist when she is aggressively asserting her agency in the public sphere (79). This rhetorical move of chiasmus, although it simply reasserts the
35 biological feminine ideal, provides such a complex doubling back and ideological layering that it helps me to do justice to the complexity of the subj ects IÂ’m writing about. Ann FergusonÂ’s Â“Can I Choose Who I Am? And How Would That Empower Me? Gender, Race, Identities and the SelfÂ” is a powerful tool that proves useful to me in examining complicated perceptions of Chris tian Right womenÂ’s subjectivities. After having read many theories of s ubjectivity, I still havenÂ’t been able to reconcile myself to utilizing one set of them because so many ar e reductive; usually they contain what is a profound, yet oversimplified, view of subjectivity that simply isnÂ’t capable of adjusting to complex arguments about womenÂ’s subjectivit y and agency. Ferguson, a professor of philosophy and womenÂ’s studies, however, re sponds to this problem by critiquing and adding to theories of subjectivity construc tion in a way that provides for change and agency, allowing agents the power of choice (although these choices are constrained by powerful social factors). Her discussi on of creating oppositional communities for collective action also directly applies to the Christian Right women because in their view, they are creating just these kinds of comm unities to fight battles of secular oppression that for them, are a very real threat. Christian Right Texts and the Constr uction of Femini ne Subjectivity My examination will entail looking at spec ific texts of popular culture that are favorites among Christians in general and rightwing Christians in particular. As I have discussed, feminine subjectivity is construc ted through popular Christ ian texts that also usually empower men. The consumption of these texts acts as a means through which Christian Right women can support patria rchy and affect their own personal
36 transformations. Capitalizing on these wome nÂ’s desire to improve themselves in a religiously appropriate way, most products aimed at and embraced by Christian women encourage a femininity that can be linked to Ma ry, the perfect mother of Christ, or one of her saintly attributes, namely submission and martyrdom. Each of the texts IÂ’ve chosen further the Madonna paradigm in some way. Tim LaHayeÂ’s and Jerry JenkinÂ’s Left Behind casts its major female characters through the Madonna/Whore dichotomy. The selections fr om the most popular of the Christian womenÂ’s self-help booksÂ— The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian; The Act of Marriage: the Beau ty of Sexual Love by Tim and Beverly LaHaye; Woman, Thou Art Loosed by T.D.Jakes; and Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle: Guiding Your Mind, Heart, and Body in a Sex-Saturated World by Shannon Ethridge and Ste phen ArterburnÂ—further the feminine submission to the masc uline. And finally, GibsonÂ’s The Passion of the Christ glorifies a feminized martyrdom through Chri st and His mother. Each text breaks money-making records within its genre and ha s been widely disseminated to Christian Right women and to the larger public. Conveni ently, those texts that are most influential also comprise a quite diverse spectrum acr oss the Christian market, and it is easy to justify the texts IÂ’ve chosen as among th e most important of the last decade. Tim LaHayeÂ’s Left Behind series promulgates th e Madonna/Whore dichotomy, particularly the first book of the series. In Chapter Two, I will argue that this action novel contributes to the postmodern subjectivity of the Christian Right woman by perpetuating the Jamesonian schizophrenia found in contemporary popular texts. In Left Behind, there are only two feminine identities: Madonna and Whore. Left Behind adheres to the revitalization of gendered essentialism in its development of Chloe
37 and Hattie, the two major female characters. There is a small space in Left Behind however, for the postmodern complexity of the Â“powerful submissionÂ” we see in many texts consumed by Christian Right women. LaHayeÂ’s Christian self-help books for men are echoed in the context and ac tion of this story, which urges men to take back their masculine right to power. In contrast, the cycle of male salvati on, and by extension, the salvation of the masculine world, is set in motion by a feminine catalyst. Although women have a presence in the damnation and salvation of humanity, this presence represents a power that must be contained within the strict hi erarchy of a certain biblical theology, or else Christian masc ulinity could be threatened. The Power of a Praying Wife ; The Act of Marriage ; Woman, Thou Art Loosed ; and Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle further the Madonna paradigm through the fundamentalist ideas of womenÂ’s submission an d servitude as foundational premises. It is these ideas that form the foundation for the destructive gender ideology that primarily constructs the postmodern subjec tivity of the Christian Right woman. In Chapter Three, I will illuminate the submissive aspects of th eir subjectivity by analyzing the feminine identity espoused in these bestsellers from the lucrative genre of Christian womenÂ’s selfhelp books. Rigid gender codes and tradi tional roles for women are the main themes of these books, but there is a twist to these themes that is both confusing and empowering; a Christian womanÂ’s submission can be reframed as a choice to submit from a position of power through an emulation of the martyrdom of Jesus Christ. The coupling of strict gender codes and the idea of a powerful subm ission leaves readersÂ’ s mates in positions that are awkwardly weaker in their insistence on the alpha role. If the Christian woman
38 reader chooses to participat e in this call for a powerful submission, she theoretically subverts the alpha role because many categorie s are disrupted in this strategic moveÂ— man, woman, masculine, feminine, power, s ubmission, domination. Modern ideas of gender are dislocated, as well as the paramete rs of power and struggl e in a marriage, but for many women, the practical r eality of submission to their husbands probably remains unchanged. The representations of Christ, woman, and man feat ured in texts that utilize this strategy of powerful submission defin itely retain the message of feminine subordination, while also attempting to recr eate Christianity into a more postmodern ideology. Mel GibsonÂ’s film, The Passion of the Christ is an artful pa stiche of cultural elements that persuades precisely because it is temporally sc hizophrenic cinema combining multiple genres. The film successfully contributes to the postmodern Christian Right womanÂ’s subjectiv ity as described in previous chapters. In Chapter Four, I will examine feminine martyrdom, perhap s the most important piece of the Madonna paradigm. Indeed, the ultimate feminine martyr, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is represented in what is arguably a more power ful submission than Christ himself. Her attitude is the epitome of powerful submission and meshes perfectly with the ideas of the Christian culture industry found in other popular texts that he lp fashion the temporally schizophrenic subjectivity of the Christian Right woman. She is reproduced in a less glorified fashion throughout the film in ev ery other female character, and GibsonÂ’s depiction of women offers little choice other than the particular subjectivity offered them through MaryÂ’s maternal martyrdom.
39 Chapter Five will underscore my insisten ce that popular cultureÂ’s maintenance of the Madonna paradigm and its ideals of submission and martyrdom affect all of American culture and should be taken seriou sly. I will conclude with real-world examples and analysis of these powerful aspect s of Christian Right feminine identity in the online texts of Concerned Women for Amer ica (CWA), which claims it is the largest womenÂ’s political action group in America. CWA is but one example of Christian Right womenÂ’s collective propensity to continually disseminate a contra dictory picture of themselves and their moral frameworks. CWA texts insist on the biological difference between women and men, welcoming the stri ct boundaries of essentialism, while utilizing stereotypical patriarchal forms of modernist argument and power as their chosen rhetoric. As if this werenÂ’t complex enough, be cause they are part of a larger movement that is strictly and neoliberally conserva tive, CWA collapses capitalist arguments into their religious rhetoric so thoroughly th at capitalism and Christianity become synonymous. Through politically successful womenÂ’s groups like CWA, this supercapitalist, fundamentalist Christian doctri ne dominates the voices of less powerful women everywhere. Even though they are cu rrently dominant in American politics, Christian Right women also claim the subject po sition of victim and act accordingly. It is this counterintuitive strate gy that reveals the locus of their powerÂ—a confluence of supposed victimization in the public sphere with the victimizati on they suffer, yet minimize, in their private lives.
40 Left Behind: The Madonna/Whore Paradigm and the Masculinity Crisis The Left Behind series, a relatively recent textua l addition to the toolbox of the Christian Right, is comprised of twelve poli tico-mystery, Tom-Clancy-like interpretations of Revelation and Christian prophecy accordi ng to American Evangelical leader and creator, Tim LaHaye. Specifically, these books tell the eschatological story of what Premillenarians assert will happen during the Apocalypse, which is that all Â“believersÂ” will be transported to Heaven in preparation for the second co ming of Christ. Those left on Earth will suffer a period of horrible tribula tion that will transform every corner of the planet until the day that Christ returns to recreate the world as his paradise and rule it for one thousand years. According to the August 29, 2002 issue of the Christian Science Monitor Evangelical Christiansii are not the only consumers of these books, who actually comprise only half of the vast readership. PublisherÂ’s Weekly tabulates series sales at more than sixty-two million copies. Thes e novels and a myriad of spin-off productsÂ— comic books, graphic novels, prophecy charts and clubs, calendars, greeting cards, a young adultsÂ’s series, software, video games, music, dramatized audio recordings, and filmsÂ—have been skillfully mainstreamed in to American culture, and they have more than a spiritual agenda.
41 Although the explicit agenda of Left Behind products is salvat ion, their implicit agenda is revolutionaryÂ—to remake the world in the image of the Christian Right. In the introduction to The Authorized Left Behind Handbook which is co-authored by LaHaye himself, a spiritual agenda is at the forefron t: Â“But it isnÂ’t just about the books. It isnÂ’t even mostly about the books. The real impact of the Left Behind series is on souls. [. .] The success of the books has driven the oppor tunity for an unprecedented harvest of soulsÂ” (LaHaye LBH 4). To LaHaye, the novels detail a black-and-white struggle between good and evil, and because his view is so fundamentalist, th e plot and action of the series is prophetic and, according to him, rhetorically designe d to motivate readers toward God before it is Â“too late.Â” However, if one looks beyond the battle between good and evil and considers the political moment um of the books, then their agenda is somewhat complicated. To begin to decipher that agenda, on e has only to know about some of the previous publications of creator and Evangelical force, Tim LaHayeiii. One of the main movers and shakers of the Christian Right, La Haye, often in collaboration with his wife, has also published numerous self-help books on marriage and sexuality that re-assert the masculinity and power of the male as h ead of household, anti-ho mosexual tracts, and analyses of the good versus evil struggle of Christianity against Â“s ecular humanism,Â” all of which rely upon a lite ral interpretation of th e Bible, according to The Christian Science Monitor (Lapman). Scarcely visible to non-evangelical America before Left Behind LaHaye was named the countryÂ’s most infl uential evangelical of the past quarter century by the Evangelical Studies Bulletin in 2001, and this means he was chosen over
42 many household names like Billy Graham, Pa t Robertson, and James Dobson. He has more than eighty publications, the major ity of which are full-length books. An astounding number of LaHayeÂ’s accomplishments have affected public policy. He founded the Coalition for Religious Freedom and the se cretive Council for National Policy, an organization that brings the ul tra-rich, evangelicals, and influential conservatives together to plan and pay for th e countryÂ’s conservative movement. He is responsible for convincing Jerry Falwell to st art the Moral Majority, and he and his wife donated millions of dollars to FalwellÂ’s Libert y University. As a result, Falwell built the Tim and Beverly LaHaye Student Center and the Tim LaHaye School of Biblical Prophecy. LaHayeÂ’s fight against Darwin's th eory of evolution led him to raise the money necessary to start The Institute for Cr eation Research. LaHaye has also changed AmericaÂ’s electoral history by helping Ronald Reagan become governor of California in 1967 in a movement led by his organization, Cali fornians for Biblical Morality. He has successfully established countless far-right can didates in different offices nationwide by motivating evangelical voters through his Am erican Coalition for Traditional Values. LaHaye was also a member of the exclus ive, religious conservative group that interrogated George W. Bush in 1999 when he announced his desire to be president and later gave Bush their offici al backing in the public domain. This Christian Right activistÂ’s vitae reveals him to be one of the inventors of the contemporary American Christian Right and one whose goal is to reve rse the progress made by decades of social movements, especially feminism. This goal to reverse social progress in th e name of God is evident in Christian movements as diverse as the aforementioned backlash against feminism, attempts to
43 crush the multicultural program s of many American public school systems, and attacks on the United Nations as an internati onal body intent on compromising American sovereignty. Not surprisingl y, these overtly political issues and countless others are woven into the very fabric of the Left Behind series. The Ideological Evolution of the End Times Again, many readers of the Left Behind series would not call themselves Â“evangelical,Â” Â“born-again,Â” or even Christian. Most likel y, they are also blissfully unaware of the political goals of Tim LaHaye; perhaps they are just looking for a Â“good readÂ” or participating in a church-sponsored book group with a friend. LaHayeÂ’s ability to attract such a wide audience, especia lly the portion deemed Â“crossoverÂ” (readers moving from secular to Christia n markets and vice versa) results in large part from their accommodations to contemporary consumer desires and his skillful importing and recasting of postmodernism in some of its most popular forms. Under the authorÂ’s manipulations, archaic prophecy morphs into ba nal, formulaic entertainment that is so transparently identical to its secular origins that readers are able to forget the real message of the narrative. It is Left Behind Â’s disguise as entertai nment that I would argue make the political portions of the text s so dangerous. According to Amy JohnsonFrykholm, author of the scholarly study, Rapture Cultur e: Left Behind in Evangelical America : [. . ] the lightness with which readers accept the books [ . .] paradoxically opens the door wider for the booksÂ’ ideological work. Readers do not need to study the books with the precision required of the
44 Bible. They do not need to discern the meanings of individual words and imagesÂ—a process that can lead to un certainty and multiplicity by its very nature. Instead, they can read for fun. (133) This Â“funÂ” activity translates into a s ubjectivity-forming activity, performing many categorizing functions for the readerÂ—namely determining who is holy and who is not. One of the techniques empl oyed by LaHaye to make Left Behind more accessible and therefore, more Â“funÂ” is a very postmode rn hybridizing of archaic text into banal, formulaic fiction. Previously incomprehens ible prophecy is conve rted into a politicalaction-science-fiction-romancehorror narrative that is hard for many readers to put down. I call this hybridizing Â“postmodernÂ” because not only is it a multiplying of the narratives in the novels, but the books are also somewhat decentered by this creative move. Readers can forget the spiritual agenda of the books as they enjoy jumping from genre to genre in a text that beco mes a near-hypertext in its multiplicity. Thus, the novels can be categorized in numerous ways and becau se of this, reach a wider audience. They can be read by Christians and non-Christians, fans of traditional romance-type stories, and those who enjoy political intrigue; the Left Behind series offers something to all readers, regardless of their normal reading pr eferences. Hybridizi ng, along with several other accommodations to postmodernism ye t to be discussed, entrenches the Left Behind series in an ideological realm that makes it hard to ignore its im plications for popular cultureÂ’s intersections with Althusserian thought. Loui s Althusser, the Marxist philosopher, was the first to map the concept of ideology. As I have said before, many Christian ideas are historical constructs, and because this is so, the ideology must adapt to cu rrent history. This is the only way that
45 Christianity can guarantee th e reproduction of its own m eans of production. Its labor power must be reproduced through maintaini ng its own membership and the conditions which make that membership possible. In ot her words, believers, ChristianityÂ’s spiritual labor power, must be reproduced in order to guarantee the perpetuati on of the ideology. Adapting to the needs of its adherents as it simultaneously creates them as subjects is one way an ideology can guarantee its own con tinuing relevance. There has been an evolutionary shift in the ideology of Chri stianity to fulfill th e needs of Christian consumers, and this shift has resulted in a diversity of texts belie vers can purchase in order to mark themselves as members of this ideological group. The Left Behind series is such a text; it fulfills the n eeds of consumers while it subjec ts them without regard for whether or not they are marked members of the ideology who seek spiritual sustenance, entertainment, or the comm on combination of the two. The Left Behind series is, without question, an id eological creation, and as such, depends on signs, such as the cross, to infl uence the subjectivity of a believer. Even though the series attempts to connect itself to the cross and the Christ ly love of the New Testament, it would be more representative of the actual story for signs of violenceiv and destruction to be associated with the narrative. Semiotics, the study of signs, is an important theoretical domain to impose on the Left Behind series, if for no other reason than to make explicit its contradictory aims of portraying the loving forgiveness of Christ through the destruction of non-believers by a wrathful Father-God. According to Valentin VoloÂšinov (9), th e Marxist semiotician, ideology cannot exist without signs. He claims that the evol ution of the word as sign is extraordinarily sensitive to the changing moods of the soci al atmosphere (20). Because ideology is
46 inseparable from words or language, it must also react somehow to social forces. It is my assertion that the ideology of Christianity wi ll symbolically and mate rially adapt its signs to current trends in order to maintain its own relevance and reproduce the means of its own production. These evolving signs carry an inordinate amount of meaning for Christians. According to Volo inov, who occasionally uses Christian symbols to explicate his complicated theses, the existence of evolving signs even creates consciousness itself and connects all consciousne sses together in an Â“ideological chainÂ” (11). Certainly the notion of e volving ideology is insepara ble from the notion of evolving ideological signs, and in the context of Left Behind one must consider the evolutionary trends of the si gns included in the narrative of the Apocalypse, the sign of Christ himself and the sign of the Christ ian Right woman, both of which are also undergoing changes that reflect the postmodern turn to multiplicity. The series also illuminates many political changes, as well. A large part of the seriesÂ’s success is due to its particular moment in the social milieu; contemporary history is ready to snatch up any creative force that will motivate the participants of the influential and revolutionary force that is the Christian Right. It is no surpri se that the popularity of the series coincides closely with the rise of the Bush administra tion and the country-wide realization that the Christian Right is no longer a behind-the-s cenes force but a front-stage presence. Left Behind can definitely be said to connect the c onsciousnesses of readers in ways that will be discussed later in this ch apter, but it also connects toge ther pieces of the collective Christian consciousness in ways that support a certain politically charged agenda.
47 Many of these changes are illuminated in the Left Behind novels, which make accommodations to postmodernism in occasionally surprising ways, one of which is the portrayal of power in the end of days story. Just as the Christian Right is now conscious of its influence and able to enforce its will, the characters in the series are neither Christians who believe that the meek will in herit the earth, nor do they refuse to soil themselves with the tools of their enemy. In fact, the degree to which they enforce their dominance by using SatanÂ’s own weapons agai nst him is noteworthy. Power is a fluid force in the novels, while simultaneously be ing rendered in the tr aditional form of graphic violence. Along with the aforemen tioned hybridizing of fictional genres, the series offers considerably more than a pa ssing nod to the genres of the action novel and film, focusing particularly on popular por trayals of contemporary technology and weaponry to tell its ancient story. Power, th en, is also to be found, in fact, in Â“mightÂ” and in Â“right.Â” GodÂ’s people do not win by some abstract and positive force that overtakes the negative force of the enemy, but very of ten by their superiority in making war. Particularly hypnotic to many readers is th e seriesÂ’s concentration on the glorious technology available to those w ho fight GodÂ’s battles. Acce ss to technology is a deciding factor in the distribution of pow er in the series; technological details are also a large part of the accommodations made to hybridize the anci ent biblical texts into a more palatable form for readersv. For example, according to Glenn Shuck, author of Marks of the Beast the Tribulation Force utilizes e-mail, publis hes websites, operates electronic bulletin boards, and webcasts sermons. Although those th ings in themselves are not futuristic or fantastic, what is truly unbe lievable is that the follower s of God conduct all of these activities in secret, successfully hiding most of them from the eyes and ears of the almost-
48 omniscient Antichrist. The Tribulation Fo rce members also talk on untraceable cell phones, use unbelievably advanced laptops, a nd use bugging equipment that is foolproof and completely undetectable. Most of the prot agonists know how to encrypt data, and the Tribulation Force has underc over technology operatives worki ng within the Beast System who are routinely able to dist ract the global netw orkÂ’s attention from the activities of those fighting SatanÂ’s forces (Shuck 109). There is also great detail devoted to desc ribing other technologies, like the modes of travel and weapons used by both the Tr ibulation Force and the Beast system. The Authorized Left Behind Handbook which gives copious de tails and background on the series, has both a chapter on transportation and a weapons concordance. According to this very conscientiously compiled information, there are thirty differe nt kinds of planes mentioned in the series. Some have names and are explicitly desc ribed, especially the multi-million dollar models that are reminiscent of private planes that might be seen on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous The Tribulation Force never has problems gaining access to the best and most expensive equipment, and they are often guilty of conspicuous consumption. Not to be confused with ascetic Chris tians, the Tribulation Force also eschews pacifism. The Handbook Â’s weapons concordance is an im pressive cataloguing of thirtyfive different types of weapons used by char acters in the series, detailed information regarding when they were used, where th ey were used, and who used them. The language of this section in the handbook is a little unsettling because it trivializes the use of violent force by connecting it to casual, Â“gangstaÂ”-type lan guage. Chloe, the principal female character, Â“packsÂ” a Luger and an Uz i in Book Ten, and she Â“ditchesÂ” a different
49 Uzi in Book Eleven. Bombs are also describe d in explicit detail, of ten including lists of nicknames: Two massive concussion bombs, 4.5 f eet in diameter, 11 feet long, and 15,000 pounds each, are prepared for the att ack on Petra. Most of their weight is made up of a gel consisting of polystyrene, ammonium nitrate, and powdered aluminum. These bombs are also called Big Blue 82s or daisy cutter bombs and ar e designed to detonate a few feet above the ground and create a fireball 6,000 feet in diameter, killing anything in a 2,000 acre area. (328) Hybridizing the traditional apocalyptic narr ative with violent ac tion narratives and other fiction genres shows that LaHaye is accommodating his religious goals to what is perhaps the goal of his readersÂ— to be entertained in a very specific way, regardless of the origin or message of the borrowed material. This morphing of Bi blical text into a hybridized genre that includes almost every other contemporary popular genre is further evidence of the grounding of Left Behind in an ideological literary tradition. LaHaye is recreating a piece of ChristianityÂ—the Apocalyps eÂ—in order to mainta in its relevance to an audience that has certain entertainment st andards. In addition, he does so in a way that, at times, conveys his spiritual messa ge subliminally rather than directly. Left Behind : an Anti-Feminist Response to the Masculinity Crisis LaHaye never confronts the many cont radictions upon which his story is grounded, at least not within the series or in any of the supplementary material available about the series. His paradoxical mixture of entertainment and salvation, secular and
50 spiritual texts, and his attempted confluence of the wrathful and l oving versions of God are echoed in other contradictions that are not so apparent. The ideological accommodation of genre hybridizing is the c ontext in which gender accommodations are rendered, and it is these accommodations that o ffer the most insight into the subjectivity of the Christian Right women. Feminine portr ayals, especially thos e in the first book of the series, are conservative, to be sure, and far from revolutionary. At the same time, however, the author does not shy away from characterizations of women that make allowances for postmodern changes in gender relations. For the purposes of making my argument that the Left Behind series is making accommodations that reflect postmodern gende r ideals while simultaneously reasserting the subordination of women, I am mainly con cerned with the first volume, which bears the seriesÂ’s title, Left Behind vi. Other books in the series wi ll be mentioned but only to add to analysis of the first. In Left Behind, there are only two feminine paradigms, and they represent the pervasive feminine dichotomy of Madonna/Whore. Essentialism is Â“inÂ” in all segments of society, and Left Behind adheres to the revitali zation of this gender trend in its development of Chloe and Hattie, the primary female characters. There is, however, a subtext so subtle it is almost indiscernible, and it resonates with the postmodern complexity of the Christian Right womanÂ’s Â“powerful submission.Â” Left Behind certainly can be read as an exhortation to men to take back their masculine right to power, the same exhortation one reads again and again in LaHayeÂ’s Christian self-help books. Most often, though, the cycle of ev ents surrounding indivi dual male salvation, and by extension, the salvation of the world as a masculine domain, is set in motion by a feminine catalyst. Women represent a power ful presence in the damnation and ensuing
51 salvation of both particular men and Â“manki ndÂ” at large. However, their power is contained within the strict hi erarchy of a certain biblical theology, which dictates that it must eventually be surrendered to male authority or else th e Christian stat us quo will be endangered by gender chaos. From its beginning, the first novel of the seri es establishes itself as a conservative, sexist text. Left Behind opens on an airplane minutes afte r the Rapture. God has taken all believers to Heaven, and readers are in troduced to three of the four principal characters in the aftermath of the disapp earance of many of the planeÂ’s passengers. Rayford, the married pilot of the plane, ha s been halfheartedly pursuing a relationship with Hattie, a beautiful, young, and willing flight attendant. The chaos of his flight and what he finds later on the ground changes his world view drastically, and he begins to seek spiritual understanding. Buck, a famous young journalist who will eventually try to explain the enigmatic occurrences to the public, is a passenger who, through Hattie, is later introduced to Rayford and his daughter, Ch loe. After he accepts the Rapture of his wife, Irene, Rayford is a newly converted Chri stian and is trying to convince his skeptic daughter to accept his religious views of the ev ents that are transforming the world. After joining her father in his faith, Chloe imme diately proceeds to proselytize to Buck, presumably because they are falling in love. Almost as a sideline to these personal co mplexities, a charismatic political leader from Romania, Nicolae Carpathia, seizes cont rol of the world and begins to snuff out all opposition to his rule. Significantly, Carpathia us es the United Nations as his pawn in a way that refers to Christian Right argume nts that the United Nations threatens the sovereignty of the United States. Buck begi ns to think it his re sponsibility to expose
52 Carpathia, while at the same time, Rayfor d and Chloe are recru ited by a self-appointed church leader to become part of a select gr oup of activist believers calling themselves the Tribulation Force, which is the title of the next book in this apocalyptic series. To those who see Revelation as a warni ng of the painful end of the world, the Left Behind series is a modernization of this sa cred admonition to repent. Although saving souls is the most obvious of LaHayeÂ’s goals for these books, the spiritual triumph of a saved soul for Christ becomes a political triumph for the Christian Right. Pervasively intertwined with his religious (and politic al) agenda, anti-feminism and the white, conservative masculinity crisis in America play a huge role in the first book of the Left Behind series. Different kinds of women are misrepresented, underrepresented, or completely missing from his portrait of contemporary America. In Rapture Culture Frykholm asserts that gender is one of the ma in sites of negotiati on between traditional apocalypticism and contemporary culture. For example, while IreneÂ’s character, RayfordÂ’s wife, follows the conservative ra pture tradition by bei ng raptured during the novelÂ’s beginning and being elevated to Â“myt hological status as ar chetypal wife and motherÂ” (31), her husband, Rayford, the Chris tiansÂ’s leader in the series, is both feminized by his newfound religion (32) and allowed to maintain a stereotypical machismo: Â“He flaunts his wealth; he flies in to ungodly rages; he struggles with sexual temptationÂ” (32). The author of Left Behind is seeking to continue to revitalize the rapture narrative with postmodern ideas about gender in an attempt to recreate its relevancy as part of the Christian ideol ogy. Even Frykholm admits that this gender negotiation does not interf ere with the seriesÂ’s investment in Â“maintaining a patriarchal order of male leadership, heterosexuality, a nd female docilityÂ” (33). Perhaps postmodern
53 gender relations cannot help but be reflected in any contemporary text. Even so, this particular negotiation simply furthers th e status quoÂ—it allows a small space for resistance that is, in the end, governed by th e masculine powers-that-be. Unfortunately, the existence of a resistant space provides a reference for masculine arguments against the need for power redistribution. Because masculine powers are, in reality, governing the feminine resistance against themselves, the result is that women characters, and by extension, women readers, are rendered a voi celess collective sculpture framed in the masculine worldview. Audible women are not the only people mi ssing from LaHayeÂ’s world in the first book of the series; minorities and all socio economic groups below standard middle class are absent, and homosexuals only come in late r in the series as comically evil figures. Why does LaHaye choose to portray America in such an inaccurate way? He is, quite successfully, meeting the needs of his audience by reacting to a particular rhetorical situation that can be explained th rough the philosophi cal notions of chronos and kairos Chronos is the Greek concept of linear, measurable time from which the English language acquires the word Â“chronology.Â” Th e chronological evolution of feminism in combination with the chronology of the American masculinity crisis has created a social sinkhole LaHaye hopes to fill with his pe rsonal vision of the world. This chronos creates a particular kairos to which LaHaye is adeptly responding. Kairos is an untranslatable Greek concept with as many viable definitions as there are rhetoricians to write about it. For simplicityÂ’s sake, I choose the discussion of kairos offered in Amlie BenediktÂ’s Â“On Doing the Right Thing at the Right Time,Â” which frames the idea in the following quote from her essay:
54 Concern for kairos begins with an effort to recognize opportunity. [. .] The decision concerning the right moment signifies understanding of this moment as distinct from others concerning this moment as the culmination of a series of events. A concern for kairos signals an interest in being Â“on timeÂ” chronologically speaking, which leads to being Â“on timeÂ” ethically speaking. (227) She goes on to say that Â“Although people say th at things happen at the right or wrong time, what they mean, in fact, is th at things happen at a right or wrong kairos Â” (228). It is important to point out that La Haye is responding to a particular kairos that includes much more than feminism and the masc ulinity crisis. Remember, this book is an interpretation of Revelation that was writt en just a few years before September 11th, which many Premillenarians believe was a pr e-Apocalyptic event. Thus, not only does LaHaye have the advantage of the old rumblings of an implicit climate of fear due to the masculinity crisis; he is also working within a very explicit climate of End Times fear due to the increase in natura l disasters so widely publici zed by a tragedy-hungry media, global health crises like the AIDS epid emic and ChinaÂ’s SARS outbreak, and more importantly for his purposes, the changing face of America since the inception of the War on Terrorism. AmericaÂ’s explicit fear cannot help but in fluence perceptions of the Â“masculinity crisisÂ” in a way that allows for opportunists like Tim LaHaye to assert an agenda that promises security through absolutism. By following the alleged commands of God through the fulfillment of patr iarchal obligations to wome n, certain men can regain a sense of knowing what to do in their religion and in their relationships at a time when
55 everything else is fuzzy. Ever ything has become so dangerous in the current climate of fear that men, as family leaders, need to be even more actively decisive than before. If the worldÂ’s current climate of violence is a sign of the End Times, then everything becomes more serious, more r eal somehow; the media-induced anxiety stirs a primitive instinct to protect the nest, ev en as it serves as a call for a triumphant celebration of the Second Coming of the Lord. Even without taking into account the cha nges wrought in the American landscape since September 11th, the foundation of white male secu rity has been destabilized. Although they are still the dominant group, whit e males are being forced to make room for autonomous others in th eir personal and public lives. Because these Â“othersÂ”Â— women, minorities, immigrantsÂ—are transfor ming the personal and political landscape, some men are becoming more steadfast in their belief that there is only one reality with one set of rules; according to this view, the Â“old wayÂ” is better, and traditional values should be upheldÂ—or reinstated, as the cas e may beÂ—no matter what the cost. In Left Behind LaHaye artificially buttresses these men in their panic by satisfying their craving for the old black-and-white world of the fiftie s, re-establishing outm oded social patterns, so that it is easier for them to recognize the Â“realityÂ” in the book, not because it is realistic, but because it is the world as they desire it. Thus, many of the minor characters in the novel are stock stereotypes who are ea sy to classify, and hence, control. For example, there is only one black pe rson in the entire book, Lucinda Williams, and she is a character who closely resemble s the Â“tough-love-Black-MotherÂ” stereotype. At one point in the novel, she roundly chastise s Buck, one of the leading male characters, proselytizes to him, then hugs him before he l eaves. Lucinda says to Buck, Â“. . if I catch
56 you in my town again . IÂ’m gonna whip your tailÂ” (LB 79). It is noteworthy that Lucinda, a career journalist, speaks in such a noticeable dialect that her speech is written Â“eye-dialectally.Â” Her speech is not categor ically African American Vernacular English, but she and the token southerner are the only characters whose words are written in such a way as to suggest a correspondence betw een the visual reading and the spoken utterance. The southern woman is a cabdr iver who witnesses to two of the main characters and uses expressions like Â“ove r yonderÂ” (LB 234), Â“ainÂ’t got,Â” and Â“Â’emÂ” (LB 235) instead of Â“over there,Â” Â“donÂ’t have,Â” and Â“them.Â” The stereotyping of these women is not overt, but it is there, especially because they are th e only representatives of these two groups and the only characters who speak in anything other than standardized English. Because these stereotypes of Â“Black MotherÂ” and Â“Southern WomanÂ” are easily recognizable, they offer a secure hermeneutical orientation from which LaHayeÂ’s readers can safely judge and react to these women. LaHaye also addresses work world insecu rities that have created perhaps the deepest cracks in menÂ’s perceived masculinit y. LaHaye chooses to fill these cracks by allowing his male readers to immerse themselv es in a world where women are not a real threat to the professional aspect of male id entity. As mentioned earlier, LaHaye is not creating a world for working class men, perh aps because they do not have as much potential power to be harvested for the sake of the Religious Right. Regardless, female professionals are underrepresented in th e book; Lucinda Williams, the aforementioned journalist, is one of only tw o women in a professional pos ition, and readers only hear about her in retrospect because she has ascende d to Heaven with the rest of the saved. The other female professional is a financial editor who is mentioned only twice in an
57 incidental scene of a journalis tÂ’s meeting; she has no beari ng on the story whatsoever ( LB 153). Newspaper offices are major settings, and all of the other journalists are men; most of the other male characters are doctors, pilo ts, and religious leaders. Furthermore, service persons are women by a large majorityÂ—s ecretaries, customer se rvice, waitstaff. Even the one taxi driver is a woman. It is not surprising, then, th at the primary female charac ters are few and somewhat flat, as well. There are only two, and they represent the pervasive Madonna/Whore dichotomy of the female body. This is not an unforeseen response to the current American kairos because the masculinity crisis calls for a simplification of gender roles, and it is much easier for a man in crisis to know how to relate to women if there are only two typesÂ—the marrying type and the fornicat ing type. According to Michael Messner, one of AmericaÂ’s most prominent gender sociol ogists, this kind of essentializing is an important strategy for many movements of the Christian Right. Take, for example, the reawakening of the antifeminis t idea asserted by seemingly mainstream religious groups like the Promise Keepers that men and women ar e meant to fill separate roles in society because of biological differences (Messner 27 ). These allegedly biblical ideas about gender, identity, and position, in combination with a feigned ignorance of the sociological research advancing the idea that gender is a social c onstruct, ar e not only evident in popular religion but in secular popu lar culture, as well. Essentialism is Â“in,Â” and Left Behind adheres to the revitalization of this gender trend in its development of Chloe and Hattie, the primary female characters.
58Madonna/Whore: a Pervas ive Gender Performance Conservative ChristianityÂ’s links to fundamentalism require that the Bible be read as the literal word of God. According to this logic, God is infallible, so His word does not need to be adapted to socio-historic al conditions. Often, one can find this same logic extended to include many conservative ideas that are not necessarily addressed directly by biblical text. Ironically, many of these ideas are historical constructs themselves, such as the prevalent gender pe rformance of Christia n Right women, which certainly shows an evolution to accommodate postmodernism. In Left Behind the most prevalent feminine gender performance is constructed around the Madonna/Whore dichotomy, which because of its pervasiven ess in American thought, is a reductive influence on all gender performances, femini ne and masculine alik e. Judith ButlerÂ’s assertions that gende r performances are coerced and re peated historical constructs certainly applies in the case of these novels. The conservative performances of feminine, Madonna-like submission are coerced from women because the consequences of noncompliance are being branded with the title a nd performance that is the only other option, the Whore, and even possible damnation fo r refusing the instructions of God. The instructions themselves have a history of repeat performances by women who pass down their interpretations of submission to othe r women, and these women either accept them at face value or adapt them to their own need s, as we see in the trend toward powerful submission that has become a standard theme in current Christian Ri ght texts, including Left Behind Chloe, the daughter of the main prota gonist, is a young, innocent college student who performs the Madonna side of the binary, while Hattie, a flight attendant, performs
59 the Whore, specifically, RevelationÂ’s prosti tutes, the Scarlet Whore of Babylon and Jezebel. Represented by Chloe and Hattie, th ese two female archetypes are engaged by the two primary male characters, Rayfor d and Buck, both of whom represent the prevalent stereotype of the rational male rescuer to different degrees. Chloe and Irene: the Madonnas of Left Behind Chloe is the main character with whom female readers of the Christian Right would identify or attempt to position as a role model. Chloe is saved from her intellectual skepticism by her father and by the end of the novel, has begun a chaste romance with Buck, the secondary male protagon ist, an older crackerja ck journalist. An examination of ChloeÂ’s relationships with two menÂ—Rayford and BuckÂ—reveals a patriarchal subordination of the Madonna femini ne by the masculine, especially if the examination begins at RayfordÂ’s relationship with Chloe as an extension of her mother, Irene, who also performs a Madonna role. Irene is undesirable to her husband, Rayford, at the beginning of the novel expressly because of what he deems a fanatical Â“devotion to a divine suitorÂ” ( LB 2) that he hoped would Â“fade like IreneÂ’s Amway days, her Tupperware phase, and he r aerobics spellÂ” ( LB 5). In flashbacks after her disappearance in the Rapture, Rayford considers his misp laced pride and condescension to his wife, admitting he thought himself her rational and intellectual superior ( LB 5). He realizes that while he was dabbling in other women ( LB 2-3) and looking for reasons to avoid church, Irene was always the dutiful Chri stian wife praying for his redemption ( LB 125). Once Irene is proven right and taken to Heave n, Rayford elevates he r to sainthood status, but he does not let go of his condescending caret aker role. He just transfers it to other
60 women, especially his daughter, Chloe, who is also portrayed as a misguided innocent like her mother. This portrayal is a foresha dowing of what is to come regarding ChloeÂ’s characterization as a performer of the femi nine Madonna role. Chloe, who at first performs a feminine gender that is entirely different from her moth erÂ’s, rapidly revises her interpretation of womanhood until it is almost identical to that of her mother; she evolves from an independent and critically-thi nking Stanford student into a submissive wife and stay-at-home mom. In the novelÂ’s beginning, Chloe is a student at Stanford University whom Rayford admits has overindulged in alcohol a time or two ( LB 160), but this is her only sin, and she becomes his Irene/Madonna extension em otionally and intellectually. Whereas Rayford considered Irene irrational and overly confidant in her faith, he believes after his own conversion that Chloe is too prideful in her skepticism of the same faith: Â“What had he done in his raising of Chloe that could ma ke her so cautious, so careful, that she might look down her nose at what was so obvious to himÂ” ( LB 207). What was once so irrational to him has become th e only Â“logical explanationÂ” ( LB 169), and now Chloe is the delusional woman, just as her mother was before her, albeit the delusions have changed. Although Rayford, with his new se nse of Christian responsibility, now identifies with his late wife in his hope to convert a loved one, he continues in his refusal to recognize the autonomy of either woman; neither Irene nor Chloe can possess a reality that measures up to his own more correct vers ion. Before his conversion, he wanted to Â“protect [Chloe] from herselfÂ” ( LB 161), and after, his relatio nship differs only in that now his duty is spiritual: Â“He felt that if he said or did anything more, he would be responsible for her deciding agai nst Christ once and for allÂ” ( LB 299). Instead he is
61 responsible for rescuing Chloe from the oblivi on of the unsaved, enabling her to gently encourage Buck in a traditionally feminine way very unlike her fatherÂ’s unilateral insistence that Chloe decide to be a Christian. Buck, who will be discussed in his Â“naturalÂ” role as a rational rescuer in connection with Hattie, flounders when he meet s Chloe, and their ini tial interactions fit the popular narrative of love-at-fi rst-sight films. Readers onl y get BuckÂ’s point of view because he is RayfordÂ’s narrative counterpart, and through his eyes, ChloeÂ’s attributes are her appearance and intelligence. Her looks ge t more airtime in th e limited omniscient narration; her beauty is lauded four times during their first meeting, while her other positive characteristics are barely mentioned. From the outset, Buck views her in a paternal light, implicitly excused in the text by their age difference of ten years. He is Â“impressed at how smart and articulate and mature she seemed [emphasis added]Â” ( LB 366) and condescends in their conversation by only answering the quest ions she directly asks, even though she elaborates in answering those he asks her. BuckÂ’s fatherly posture is made even mo re clear as the scen e progresses and his paternal thoughts are borne out in his behavior and words. For example, he wipes food from ChloeÂ’s face as though she were a child and later calls her a Â“college kidÂ” ( LB 3723). Even his jokes are of the avuncular type, and he pretends to be an old man when he asks her age ( LB 374). When Chloe comes to dinner, he even thinks that she is Â“radiant, looking five years older in a classy evening dressÂ” ( LB 381), which is a parentÂ’s thought about a daughter rather than a ma nÂ’s romantic interest in a woman. The authorÂ’s interpretation of biblical gender roles plays a part in the explication of BuckÂ’s relationship with Chloe. LaHaye establishes a traditi onal foundation for this
62 love story, making sure that th e storyÂ’s rhetoric shows that regardless of ChloeÂ’s Stanford education, her gender determines the level of her autonomy in all of her relationships with men. Men are the unquestio nable leaders in every forum of the world as created by Tim LaHaye, and Buck is no exception. If he and Chloe are to be the lovers in Left Behind Â’s love affair, then Chloe will have to perform as a subordinate Madonna, just as her mother was. This subordination is not without its complexities because even though Irene and Chloe, the two Madonnas, are subor dinate, they are the holders of the only information that, according to the novelÂ’s world view, can save the men who dominate them. Irene is only posthumously successful with Rayford, who in turn, convinces their daughter, Chloe; she then becomes responsible for saving Buck in a feminine way before they can truly become a couple. According to Frykholm, this pattern of spiritually powerful women is not a deviation from traditional raptur e fiction. FrykholmÂ’s analysis expands the idea of Irene as the ideal Madonna and Chloe as her exte nsion by connecting these two women to the archetypal female found in most rapture fiction: This ideal woman is embodied in the raptured female who is crucial to structuring the narrative. She is also simultaneously disembodied as a figure who appears only to quickly di sappear. In this way, she becomes intensely symbolicÂ—f ar more powerful as a symbol of faith than she was as a living believer. (31) Frykholm goes on to say that this tradition codes the dichotomy of male/female with another layer of world/church. An extens ion of the notion that women are emotional while men are rational, this idea suggests th at women, who are natura lly more pious than
63 men, are responsible for bringing the men in their lives into the church. The men will resist, undoubtedly because the leap of faith required runs contrary to their worldly concerns (32). Frykholm also notes that this is where the Left Behind series deviates and enters the realm of postmodern gender mixing. Rayf ord, although he is the series patriarch, identifies himself with the home in his wifeÂ’s absence and takes on th e motherly role with his daughter; this connection to IreneÂ’s hearth helps him on his journey toward Christianity. Chloe, too, who is not represen ted as the ideal feminine in her introduction, becomes more and more archetypal after she is converted, eventually becoming BuckÂ’s submissive wife later in the series (32-3). What FrykholmÂ’s analysis doesnÂ’t explicitly state is that it is salvation that femini zes both of these char acters, and this, too, complicates the power differential between men and women. If salvation is a soughtafter condition in the novels that also femi nizes characters, then femininity itself is assigned the highest power while simultaneou sly being degraded in the relationships between characters who take on a more feminine identity. Irene and Chloe are powerful figures whose autonomous and highly spiritual subjectivities are ultim ately sacrificed on the altar of a worldly patriarchy. Why wome n cannot be leaders, even though they are leading, is one of the mysteries of the novel, and indeed, one of the mysteries of this absolutist, gendered thinking. Hattie: The Scarlet Whore Irene and Chloe are the feminine salvationi sts in the seriesÂ’s first novel, but the traditional masculine savior is represented by both Buck and Rayford. It is not necessary
64 for a woman to be a love interest in order for Buck to take care of her; even if the relationship is a casual one, Buck still feel a responsibility to the Â“weaker sex.Â” Hattie, the clingy flight attendant who represents th e Whore side of the binary that includes Chloe as Madonna, is introduced during the myst erious flight that opens the novel. She is propped up by Buck after he establishes himself as her rational superior by successfully manipulating her. When she tries to prevent him from c onnecting his laptop to the in flight phone, he condescends to her, calling her, Â“beautiful HattieÂ” ( LB 32) and plays on her emotions by confronting her with her ow n fear concerning the disappearance of so many of her passengers; he even promises to try to contact her family members ( LB 33). His condescending behavior seems like kindne ss to Hattie, and they bind her to him somehow. Just as she will do later with her boss, Rayford, Hattie attempts to maintain a personal connection with Buck after the crisis: Â“Would you mind calling me again sometime? You seem like a nice person, and I appreciate what you did for me. It would be nice to hear from you againÂ” ( LB 94). When she does not hear from Buck, she calls him for support, eliciting condescending thoughts from him: Â“Maybe Hattie showed more depth and sense when she wasnÂ’t under stress. He hoped soÂ” ( LB 149). Hattie only continues to disappoint him, though, when she refuses to take his advice about seeing Nicolae Carpathia, the wo rld leader who takes charge of the United Nations and is the novelÂ’s anti-C hrist character. Buck later introduces Hattie to Carpathia at her behest, but when Carpathia requests a date with her, Buck becomes paternally protective to the woman he ear lier considered a nuisance, ad vising her to turn Carpathia down. He even lectures her:
65 [. .] you donÂ’t strike me as that kind of girl. [. .] you donÂ’t seem like the type who would allow herself to be taken advantage of by a stranger [. .] well, are you that kind of person? By not passing along the invitation, was I protecting you from something you would enjoy? ( LB 437-8) BuckÂ’s questions are rhetorical and meant to shame Hattie. Buck has already judged Hattie, but his judgment is a confusing one. If Hattie could allow someone to Â“take advantage of her,Â” then how could she be a vi ctim in need of protec tion? By not allowing Hattie to make her own decisions, Buck is attempting to protect her from herself rather than from another person, and it is this instinct that reveals his self-imposed fathering role. As a man, he knows what is best for this woman, although she is practically a stranger to him. BuckÂ’s reaction to the potential relations hip between Carpathia and Hattie firmly entrenches her character in the miasma of the prostitutes in Revelation. It is not clear in Left Behind the first book of this series, whether or not Hattie is meant to represent the Scarlet Whore of Babylon or Jezebel, but she is linked to lust and prostitution. Buck even uses the word Â“pimpÂ” in reference to himself when he is asked to set her up with Carpathia ( LB 417). HattieÂ’s relationship with Rayford also links her to the Madonna/Whore dichotomy because she seduces him to impure t houghts of an adulterous affair with her. Their relationship is never physically consum mated, but Rayford does feel paternally for her and acts as her caretaker in a very traditio nal sense. One has to wonder if this is not adultery of the emotional type. After all, he fathers Hattie the same way he does his own wife and daughter. Or, is it his responsibility as a man to father and protect all women in
66 the harem of femininity? Hattie as whore is a representation of a particular brand of femininity, and this becomes apparent during and after the crisis on the airplane on which she is an attendant and Rayford a pilot. She is described using words meant to create her as an irrational, helpless, and potentially dangerous woman needing constant direction and encouragement. She whines, squeals, whimpers, and screams ( LB 16-8), and her body language betrays her hysteria, as well. Sh e grabs RayfordÂ’s arms with her Â“talons,Â” shudders, buries her head in his chest, weeps and loses c ontrol of her body, falls to her knees, and stares vacantly at him as he gives her instructions ( LB 16-9). Even after the plane lands, she still Â“quiver[s]Â” ( LB 54) and clings to Rayford, insisting he call her when he gets home. Hattie in no way rises to the challenge of handling he rself in this crisis, and Rayford acts as her protector and guide comforting her and eventually holding a helicopter so she can ride in hi s lap away from the airport ( LB 51). His responsibility to Hattie does not e nd when he knows she is safely home, either. She continues to cling, and he contin ues to accept the role of her caretaker when she repeatedly calls him at home; eventuall y, she becomes his intellectual and spiritual charge just as his daughter does. When Hatti e disagrees with him, he, like Buck, tends to condescend harshly, explaining that Â“he had never found Hattie guilty of brillianceÂ” and wonders whether he should Â“waste his ener gy arguing with someone who clearly did not have a clueÂ” ( LB 267). Later, after his own conversion, he decides it is his responsibility to convert her, too, perhaps to rectify the fact that his previo us feelings for her were based on her being an object, a mere Â“physical diversionÂ” ( LB 328). He is still considering her in terms of his own selfish desires, though. The difference is that now his desires are removed from the physical: Â“His real motive, even for talking to Hattie, was to
67 communicate to ChloeÂ” ( LB 288). RayfordÂ’s relationship with Hattie, before and after his conversion, is aligned somewhat with his relationship to his wife, Irene, and daughter, Chloe, even though Hattie is meant to fill th e Whore side of the binary, while Irene and Chloe are meant to represent Madonnas. To Rayford, the three women are irrational Â“othersÂ” for whom true autonomy would be da ngerous; Irene, Chloe, and Hattie all need his assistance at some point to establish valid realities fo r themselves and escape from what he deems illusory existences. Christian Right Subjectivity Construction and the Left Behind Series In her interviews with Left Behind readers, Frykholm is surprised that the gender issues that are such a large pa rt of the series to her are la rgely ignored by readers, who view the characters through the lens of persona lity rather than gender, using adjectives like Â“strongÂ” to describe charac ters of both genders. Furtherm ore, readers, regardless of their own gender, identify with both male and female characte rs in the series, depending on characteristics like Â“courage.Â” Over and over again, Frykholm struggles to design interview questions that will reveal the underl ying significance of gender in the minds of her readers, and she is always disappointed by the responses. Many of her subjects are bewildered and deny that gender is an issue at all (90-4). This is not surprising, given the cultural milieu of conservative Christianity, which resolutely refutes the need for the Equal Rights Amendment or Affirmative Action, pointing instead to specific instances of the American Dream and to the existence of rare public figures like Condoleeza Rice. However, Frykholm notes one exceptionÂ—Hattie, the WhoreÂ—who is often considered too repulsive as a feminine character to escape a gendered condemnation and remarks of
68 embodied disgust: Â“she is making me illÂ” (95). Most interestingly, Hattie elicits this reaction from female readers, who are, acco rding to Frykholm, experiencing a Â“reverse identification [. .], a desire to articul ate their alignment w ith orthodoxy and their rejection of her alternativeÂ” ( 95). Why would they want to be the Whore in a world that glorifies Madonnas like Chloe? By categorizing Chloe and Hattie this way from the beginning of the series, LaHaye creates a comforting construction of re ality for all of his white male readers who feel displaced. One can see that he writes pr imarily for this audience because they are the models for the protagonists through whom the story is told, and they are the holders of powerÂ—financial, intellectual even religiousÂ—in the firs t novel. Understandably, he wants to make it easy for these readers to f eel good in his world, so they must feel good about his characters. Not only are the novelÂ’s male characters in charge of their universe, but they even dictate the way the female char acters are seen by the readers. Both Chloe and Hattie lack narrative voi ce, and the third person limite d omniscient narrator only delves into the minds of Rayford and Buck. Thus, readers have no choice but to assume that Chloe and Hattie are the simple archetypes they app ear to be to these two men, who are, incidentally, afforded a great deal of em otional and mental complexity. For example, Rayford is represented as a philanderous lecher in the storyÂ’s beginni ng, but he is actually a responsible and self-actualized leader and ca retaker. Hattie, guilty of the same crimes as Rayford, though unmarried, childless, young, imp ressionable, et cetera, is not shown to have emotional complexity. She is just a whore, period. The perpetuation of absolutist gender ro les is a major supporting pier of the Christian RightÂ’s platform and part of the ab solutist political age nda affecting America
69 today under the guise of Â“family values.Â” The male obligation to be leader and the female duty of subordination is morally corr ect for no other reason than its intrinsic spiritual Â“rightness,Â” which for many, creates a system in whic h to argue is to be wrong, and even worse, sinful. For those Christia ns who believe in a LaHaye-type of gender hierarchy, absolutist roles for men and wome n become givens equipped with their own biblical reactions to attac kÂ—Â“for the Bible tells me so.Â” Many men and women reduce themselves to fit in this gender hierar chy because they believe it is right. LaHaye believes it is right. Absolutist gender roles are inseparable from what he defines as Â“Christian.Â” Author of more th an thirty non-fiction Ch ristian books, many of which are best-sellers pushing the viewpoint of traditional gender, he is such a publishing phenomenon that one can only believe him sincere in his efforts to help others. However, the effects he must have on subjectivity c onstruction, for both women and men, cannot be primarily positive given the tenets of the novels in combination with the postmodern climate in which they are occurring. On one hand, most men cannot possibly live up to the essentialist, yet contradictory, expectati ons found in conservative Christian texts like Left Behind and it is more likely that the unreach able bar actually inflicts personal harm on these men who feel foreve r less-than, like Mike and Su san FaludiÂ’s other Promise Keeper subjects from Chapter One. This kind of masculinity is the gender flipside of the Madonna coin, for just as no woman can be everything that is good, no man can accomplish an identity so balanced that he lives through both sides of every male dichotomy. Just as unrealistic, and even mo re stifling than the e xpectations imposed on men in the Left Behind paradigm, is the Madonna mold forced on women, and it is the formation of their subjectivity within this frame that perpetuates the most invasive
70 personal harm. Together, these personal harms committed in the name of salvation against individual female readers perpetrate harms against the wi der collective population of women. This injustice, in turn, helps create an e nvironment that condones other collective harms committed under the banners of ideas like Â“freedom,Â” Â“democracy,Â” and most ironically of all, Â“Christian love.Â” Because Left Behind has a spiritual and political message, it creates a world that is far from objective; the worl dview it offers is tailor -made, purpose-driven, and unabashedly biased. Frykholm explains th at the genre of apocalyptic fiction does important religious work for all end-times pr ophecy that must be disseminated in useful forms in order to survive in popular Christ ian culture. By providing a narrative that arranges the unrelated signs of th e end of the world into a story, Left Behind gives seemingly transparent meaning to indecipherabl e biblical text, and because most readers already have some degree of belief in the fier y apocalypse prophesied in the Bible, their view of the world is changed. He re are two reports Frykholm provides: Â“One reader describes turning on th e television after a long session of reading and expecting to see news about the AntichristÂ” (134). Yet another reader, Cindy, proves that the book creates news of an Antichrist: Â“Â’Whenever I see things on TV, IÂ’m like, Â‘Setting it up.Â’[. .] Â‘Setting it up for the end timesÂ’Â” (118). Frykholm explains that Cindy and other readers, afte r reading the books, ar e able to Â“read the signsÂ” of everyday interna tional occurrences presented by the media and fit them into the prophetic codes and narrativ es (119). Not surprising ly, this decoding/recoding activity helps to assu age fears about the postmodern condition: globalization becomes
71 evidence of the Â“One World GovernmentÂ” (120) the violence in Is rael and Palestine becomes necessary bloodshed in order to re build the holy temple, and privacy issues prove the readying of the world for the AntichristÂ’s Â“marking Â” of his followers. Absorbing these texts gives readers a Â“frame work through which to read the world, and perhaps more importantly, to understand their own place in the cosmic scheme Â” (111, emphasis added). It is this Â“placeÂ” in the mast er plan that reveals LaHaye and his counterparts to be advocates of the archaically outdated and socially unjust ideas that make Left Behind troubling reading for many, includ ing those who enjoy studying it. This series promotes a hierarchy similar to the classical Great Chai n of Being minus the monarchial structures at the top of earthly humanit y. According to this struct ure, God practices a kind of Trickle Down Economics of Holy Authority, seeping through white, privileged, Christian men to their charges and Christian men of ot her classes and colors to their women and children. The relationships between the diffe rent levels of the hierarchy pose problems for everyone included, regardless of the le vel they occupy, but women, especially, find themselves in a confusing place. When this archaic Great Chain is meshed with their postmodern realities, women are left in cont radictory subjective te rrain that must be negotiated. This is not to say that women readers of the Left Behind series have no agency in the subjective work done by the books; quite th e contrary. Their ne gotiations, at least while they are entrenched in the narrative, may very well result in a more creative mix of consciousness than the gender negotiations of male readers because the seriesÂ’s masculine representations are less contradict ory. Women readers are, after all, given
72 incoherent scrapsÂ—postmodern gender, biblic al gender, etc.Â—from which to construct their subjectivities. Recognizi ng the difficulty of these negoti ations may make it easier to sympathetically theorize th e Christian Right woman. A lthough it is certainly more difficult to find merit in the agency of those with whom we disagree, it is still a worthy enterprise: Â“If we affirm the agency of eva ngelical believers, we gain the advantage of creating a space for increased understanding and dialogue [. . and] we come to better understand ourselves, and we have hope that as in every enc ounter, each one who encounters [the other] is changedÂ” (Frykholm 187). One way we can analyze the agency of women readers of these novels is by l ooking at the ways they actively create and establish themselves as part of a community. Women Readers of Left Behind : Negotiating Conflicts An important theme of FrykholmÂ’s Rapture Culture is that reading the Left Behind series is not an act done in isolation, but as part of a community. Often, reading the novels accomplishes identity formation th rough identification with a certain group of people: Â“Readers read to connect themselves to other readers, to distinguish themselves from other readers, and to read themselv es into a community. Through reading, they both form social bonds and challenge them Â” (64). Although Frykholm interviews women and men, there are three women in particul ar whose reading performs a function of subjectivity construction through their commun ities and relationships: Sarah, Laura, and Rachel. All three are examples of readers who use the books as self-defining material, especially when they cause a conflict that demands some so rt of action, usually intense reflection, before a resolution can be reached.
73 Sarah, who travels to her hometown most weekends to go to church, has never found a church home that is as fulfilling as the one in which she grew up, and this is partly because of the influential relationship she has with the churchÂ’s pastor, Bill. Bill is an outspoken detractor of the Left Behind novels because of doctrinal differences, and Sarah is a lover of the books who participates in a huge reading community. Negotiating her way through her spiritual advisorÂ’s disagreem ent with her choice to participate in the seriesÂ’s culture has been a challenge, but it has caused her to adopt a more loving and inclusive view of those outside the circle of whom her hometown church would consider saved (48-50). Laura, a woman who converted from Eva ngelicalism to Catholicism, is in a similar position because her husband, Mark, whom she respects and knows to be a devout Catholic believer, does not believe in the ra pture at all, and so cannot be a Christian according to the ideas advanced in the Left Behind series. LauraÂ’s l oyalties are divided between Evangelicalism and Catholicism and complicated further by her belief in the rapture and her belief that her husband is a Christian. Th ese conflicts come to the forefront when she and Mark openly disagree and must negotiate power and submission in a conversation about the books, which Mark de spises. Contributing to her status as a bridge between religious worlds and people, the books heighten her identity as a woman divided. She even chooses to submit to Ma rk in conversation, although she sincerely believes he is wrong, and feels herself in a mo re powerful position as a true believer (5053). Rachel, too, is in conflict with an unbeliever for whom she feels a deep concern. Rachel is a new convert, and her mother, Marg aret, openly calls hersel f a Â“heathenÂ” (54).
74 RachelÂ’s identity as a new Christian is pa rtly formed through the books, and although she admits she would read another apocalypt ic narrative to compare it with the Left Behind series, at the time of the interview, it is La HayeÂ’s version of the End Times that prompts her to explain how realistic the books are to her: Â“I mean how else would it happen?Â” (54). The seriesÂ’s narrative has so convinced her that she cannot even imagine the details being ordered differently, and everything sh e says in her interview is designed to persuade her mother of their relevancy. When she speaks of her anger at characters in the novel who refuse to convert and she positions herself in opposition to them, she is, in fact, speaking of her mother and attempting to find an appropriate way to express her feelings and newfound authority without being domineering. Wh at is most striking about RachelÂ’s reaction to both her faith and the Left Behind books is her certainty that her worldview is the one her mother should accept because it is the only right one. This certainty about spiritual correctness unites no t only three of the women discussed here, but Christian Right women as a whole. The Blessed Assurance and Impo ssibility of Fixed Identity A famous hymn from the nineteenth-century bespeaks the importanc e of certainty in matters of salvation: Blessd assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
75 Perfect submission, perfect delight, Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; Angels descending bring from above Echoes of mercy, whispers of love. Not only is it important to know without doubt what behaviors are required for the eternal reward described in the hymn, but it is importa nt to be sure of oneÂ’s immutable identity as a true believer. One must also be assured spiritual distance from others who are not. Although Christianity is rapidly adapting to contemporary life, the need for absolute assurances of self still guarantees that many will be left out of the Â“visions of raptureÂ” described here. The ideological evolution of Christianity requires accommodations for postmodernism, as well as reactionary conf rontations with it, although admittedly the results are often one and the same. Regardless, one such confrontation is the evangelical insistence upon fixed identitie s, and this reactionary stance, although illusionary, provides a certain sense of s ecurity in a postmodern world where security is all too elusive. According to the Eva ngelical point of view, everyone fits somewhere, especially if they are traditionally gendered and evange lically Christian, as defined by the given evangelical discourse under examination at th e moment. A certainty of identityÂ—a very specific combination of conservatism, Christia nity, and femininityÂ—is one of the primary goals of Christian Right women, at least according to the repr esentation of them found in Left Behind and the other popular texts to be discussed in subsequent chapters. It is this desire for certainty that cannot be reali zed in a postmodern environment, which by definition, fractures the subject.
76 Christian Right women are attempting to unify increasingly disparate ideologies from different historical momentsÂ—ancient bi blical, historical Christian, twenty-first century Christian and consumer, among othersÂ—i nto a seamless fabric that they can use to clothe themselves in an unquestionable lo gic. This attempted unification cannot help but confuse them in the manner that the ultimate Marxist critic, Fredric Jameson, describes when he connects the breakdow n of the signification chain to true schizophrenia. JamesonÂ’s description of the schizophrenic subject best illuminates the plight of Christian Right women because his ac count of the subject in cludes a historically layered approach that can take into account the temporal nature of their subjectivity construction in a postmodern environment. Jameson explains that Â“personal identity is itself the effect of a certain temporal unification of past and future with the presen tÂ” and Â“such active temporal unification is itself a function of language, or better st ill of the sentence, as it moves along its hermeneutic circle through time.Â” Therefore, Â“if we are unable to unify the past, present, and future of the sentence, then we are sim ilarly unable to unify the past, present, and future of our own biographical experience or psychic lifeÂ” (568). Christian Right women are faced with the conundrum of what aspects of historical and contemporary Christianity and postmodernism are truly useful in thei r subjective quest for a fixed identity and which are worthless. Even more problematic than the attempted historical unification is the Christian RightÂ’s insistence that this patchworked confluence of ideologies is Â“naturalÂ” and coherent rather than constructed and temporally schizophrenic. Hence, the subjectivity construction of Christian Right women involve s even more negotiations
77 between conflicting ideological discourses and their histories than other women living the contradictions of a postm odern feminine reality. Dangerous Marks: the Limits of Christian Identity in the Left Behind Series All of FrykholmÂ’s women subjectsÂ—Sar ah, Rachel, and LauraÂ—are being constructed by and are constructing themselv es through the fundamentalist ideology of the books and their interacti ons with others in their Left Behind reading communities. They are simultaneously weakened through the f ear and propaganda tactics in the series and empowered by the privileged position afforded them through the ideological narrative of exclusivity and salvation: Â“Rapture is rhetoric. It is used to persuade people of their need for faith and to persuade others of the superiority and rightness of that faithÂ” (Frykholm 11). Furthermore, becoming a reader is an act that usually marks one as a member of an even more narrowly defined community than just evangelicalism, and often, this reductive positioning has severe su bjective consequences that promote an Â“us versus themÂ” mentality that is anything but c onstructive. This Â“us versus themÂ” motif is more widely discussed in ShuckÂ’s work, who shares with Frykholm the opinion that traditional rapture narratives include a microcosm/macrocosm structure that positions the protagonists as a small group of believers fight ing what is an impossible battle against the evil forces that envelope them (Frykholm 14). Shuck analyzes the macrocosm/microcosm notion as a touchstone throughout his study of the networked culture found in the Left Behind series. His analysis includes a discussion of the traditional apocalyptic theme from which he derives his bookÂ’s titleÂ— the literal markings of both Christians and B east followers in the time of the Tribulation
78 (see ShuckÂ’s Chapter Five). Just as the esse ntialist turn in the seriesÂ’s portrayal of masculinity and femininity attempts to simp lify gender relations, and the author promotes an oversimplifying of the international stag e by mythologizing world events into their apocalyptic narrative, so, too, do these marks distill and simp lify, however unrealistically. The marks, both of which are on the forehead, simplify the judgments that must be made by Left Behind Christians whose lives might be in danger were they to miscalculate someone elseÂ’s identity. Either someone is trustworthy because she has the mark of GodÂ’s hand, or she is untrustworthy because she has the BeastÂ’s mark (an unmarked person is deemed as untrustworthy as a person marked by the Beast because their undecided status renders them a security risk). Evangelical readers, who very often define themselves by who they are not, as in the case of FrykholmÂ’s Hattie-hating subjec ts, are very concerned with identity boundaries and questions regard ing the authenticity of othe r believers: Â“the quest for marks, then, represents a quixotic search for an assurance of oneÂ’s identity as a believer, along with guarantees that others are who they profess to beÂ” (144). Part of the postmodern condition, this searching for the Â“rea lÂ” self and the Â“realÂ” other is doomed to fail. This is especially true in the cas e of fundamentalist Ev angelicals because the boundaries for the category of authentic Ev angelical are so impermeable that they preclude the inclusion of anyone with a more complex subjectivity. Unfortunately, those who find themselves Â“outsideÂ” the boundaries of salvation are, according to this belief system, doomed for eternity. This very common assumption is reflected in the anxiety of readers, such as LauraÂ’s concern for her unr aptureable husband, Mar k, and RachelÂ’s wish that her mother convert before it is Â“too late.Â” What these readers consider to be their
79 real knowledge of the future is Â“knowle dgeÂ” that can do catastrophic or constructive work on their subjectivity formation, depending on oneÂ’s point of view. The consequences of being outside the boundaries drawn by evangelicalism are so tragically permanent that if one believes in this system, free willÂ—ChristianityÂ’s powerful agencyÂ—is removed from the equation entire ly; choosing Christ becomes a necessity rather than a choice when it Â“encounters the immovable force of a salvation drama written two thousand years agoÂ” (186). Much of ShuckÂ’s discussion of the macrocosm/microcosm apocalyptic theme return s to the idea that classification systems like the ones evangelicals use lead to an Â“us versus themÂ” mentality that, while erasing ambiguity and doubt, also erase the middle ground in a world in which the different sides are networked (81) and no longe r as distinct as fundamenta list activists like LaHaye would like his readers to think. Neve rtheless, LaHaye, following conservative Christianity, promotes a fixed identity that ac tually parallels the BeastÂ’s standards for his followers. Take, for example, this desc ription by Shuck of th e Beast MovementÂ’s dependence on uncertainty: Antichrist offers to replace the uncerta inty characteristic of contemporary existence with assurances of security, in exchange for his citizensÂ’ trust. Such trust, however, turns indivi duals against each other and produces even greater uncertainty. Antichrist builds a panoptic culture, feeding off of the anxiety and uncertainty of his subj ects. [. .] He needs mistrust to build his system, and individuals who eschew risk and eagerly embrace his promises find themselves trapped ever more tightly within his grasp. But
80 at least they receive the comfort of a fixed identity in an uncertain world. (125) The inability of the Beast to provide the ce rtainty he promises should bring to mind the uncertainty of the masculinity crisis and the en suing search for fixed gender identities, as well the conjunction of this phenomenon w ith the opportunistic rendering of gender relations in Left Behind Furthermore, the search for fixed identities and their perpetuation as the only morally correct id entities can be observed in the terrorism anxiety that breeds distrust among different groups of Americans and international groups of Christians and Muslims. In a ddition to these issues, which are currently important in evangelical circles, one must also consider the revolving inescapability of the self-perpetuating Patriot Act, which trap s America and its citi zens in a war without end against an indefinable and invisible en emy that is defined simply as dark, unAmerican, and not coincide ntally, non-Christian. Essentialism is a vitally necessary component of thes e dangerous systems that reductively distill identity. The ways that essentialism is promoted in the novel and in fundamentalist forms of evangelicalism links the evangelical movement to the End Times evilÂ—the BeastÂ’s rigidly fixed id entitiesÂ—it inverts to define itself. As Shuck says, Â“If prophecy believers insist upon certainty a nd fixed identities in a world often characterized by ambiguity, they may recreate the Beast they seek to avoidÂ—not a Beast external to them, but one that emerges from within their own fear s of the present and attempts to re-create a mythical pastÂ” (26).
81 Preparing for Sacrifice with Self-Help Books The overwhelming success of Left Behind is due in large part to the ability of the text to be all things to a ll readers. Because it makes effective accommodations to the postmodern world, regardless of its origins in mo dern ideas, the series guarantees its own expected Christian audience and a crossover audience that consumes the books for other reasons, such as sheer entertainment value. The textsÂ’s adaptations to postmodernity make it clear that it is actively suppo rting a certain kind of hyper-conservative Christianity in its struggle to maintain re levancy, while simultaneously effecting small changes in that communityÂ’s discourse. One way the text achieves this goal is through the representation of women in the novels. Although Left Behind Â’s perpetuation of the Madonna/Whore paradigm renders its feminine representations far from revolutionary, the essentialism advocated by characterizati ons like Chloe and Hattie is tempered by a feminine agency and power that problematizes the strict gender performance required by the narrativeÂ’s ideology. A similar complication of conservative Ch ristianityÂ’s strict gender performance can be seen in other Christian Right texts, as well, and often it is found in these textsÂ’s perpetuation of the Madonna/Whore paradigm. Although this bastion of gender tradition is an unlikely place in whic h to locate any sort of progressive subversion, the Madonna/Whore paradigm carries within itself a small space for resistance against its very own structures of power. This c ounterintuitive twist, which I call Â“powerful
82 submission,Â” can most easily be observed at wo rk in the postmodern rhetoric of self-help books written for Christian women, which primarily perpetuate the submission component of the Madonna/Whore paradigm. In this chapter, I will examine five bestseller Christian Right self -help books written for women, all of which further both the Madonna/Whore paradigm and the notion of powerful submission: The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian; Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn; The Act of Marriage by Tim and Beverly LaHaye; The SpiritControlled Woman by Beverly LaHaye; and Woman, Thou Art Loosed by T.D. Jakes. These texts undoubtedly shape feminine Christia n subjectivity, and especially so because women consume these particular books not out of an outward supposition that they are entertainment, but rather in a conscious effo rt to educate themselves or improve their lives in some way. Reader intention is a power ful indicator of a textÂ’s subjective effects, and this group of texts provides powerful material women actively use to reshape themselves and their lives. Much of th is reshaping is acted out in their gender performance, which constitutes the subject matter of a sizeable portion of the spiritual instruction found in Chris tian Right self-help books. Part of the repeat gender performance of Christian Right women is historicized within certain absolutist interpretations of religio us texts, and the rest is the result of their own particular history and socioeconomic conditioning. Biblical references to the subordinate woman abound, and many conser vatively religious women look to the submission and martyrdom of Jesus Christ as a model for their behavior toward their husband and children. For some of the more conservative denominations, feminine servitude and passivity are the primary goals of any woman because it helps her to form
83 an identification with Christ. The scenario of a womanÂ’s earthly submission, then, serves a dual function. Christian Right women w ho model their own submission to their families, especially their husbands, after the s ubmission of Christ to His Heavenly Father gain the benefits of family tranquility. In addition to a harmonious home, her submission to her family results in a clos er relationship with Jesus due to her identification with him as a submissive martyr. Linda Kintz points out in Between Jesus and the Market that this is a problematic appropriation of a persona that Christian men need to be a masculine figure instead of a feminine role model: For this version of submission also threatens to unde rcut the equation between men and the anthropomorphic im age of the Creator. Here it is women whose image is closer to his. [. .] Though women learn in this misogynistic structure to act in menÂ’ s interests, it nevertheless is obvious that they also derive a great deal of power from this guaranteed identity [. .] in many ways, these women have learned how to usurp the most important guarantee of meaning in this religious structure: the imitation of Christ. (53) This particular aspect of Christian Right womenÂ’s subjectivity contributes to the most postmodern of all of the contradictory twists of the Chris tian Right woman. Many Christian Right women claim the doctrine of submission leads both to freedom and to transformation. They believe, as the author of GodÂ’s Daughters R. Marie Griffith, puts it: Â“God rewards His obedient daughters by healing their sorrows and easing their painÂ” (179). Although the Christian Right woman is supposedly ad hering to rigid gender codes established by GodÂ’s instructi ons to humanity, these codes are superficial because she
84 also chooses a powerful submission by linking herself with the submissive martyrdom of Jesus Christ. This coupling leaves her mate in a position that is awkwardly weaker and, from this perspective, almost petulant in his insistence on having the dominant position. Because she chooses to be submissive in imita tion of her savior and spiritual king, she is actually rejecting the terms of the power st ruggle altogether a nd Â“rising aboveÂ” the potential conflicts involved in vying for power. In a sense, this decision reverses her relationship to her husband and provides her su bjectivity with a way to function as her husbandÂ’s superior. In this scenario, Â“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low [. .]Â” (Isaiah 40:4). Many categories are disrupted in this strategic psychological move of the Christian Right woman to reframe her s ubmissionÂ—man, woman, masculine, feminine, power, submission, domination. If one bases their assumptions about gender and power on essentialized categories, then this strate gy begins to deconstruct this already shaky system of understanding. Furthermore, ther e is definitely an implied wordplay in the oxymoronic idea of Â“powerful s ubmissionÂ” that is an ingeni ously ironic subversion of modern ideas to satisfy the contemporary Ch ristian woman. If she wants to remain within the comfortable confines of conservati ve Christianity but st ill claim her agency, she can do so because she is not being forced to submit. The concept of a powerful submission swirls modern ideas of gender ro les around in an attempt to dislocate the parameters of power and struggle in a marriag e. Texts that utilize this strategy of powerful submission have a postmodern subtex t that recreates the Christian reality through adaptive representations of Christ, woman, and man.
85Bestselling Christian Right Self-Help Texts: A Focus on Feminine Submission Marriage is the subject of countless titles in the self-help cat egory of Christian publishing, and many of them espouse the necess ity of feminine submission in marriage, furthering the unrealistic ideal s of the Madonna paradigm. There are moderate Christian texts that posit a more egalitar ian view of the marital relatio nship, but they are much rarer than the texts that try to asse rt the absolutist gender ideal of feminine submission within twenty-first century reality. A ll of the texts included in this chapter are or have recently been bestsellers, often on the secular and Christian lists, and all are examples of books suitable for reading in small fellowship gr oups, like Sunday School cl asses or weeknight prayer groups. For the sake of clarity in later discussion, I will provide brief overviews of each of the self-help books that will be used in the analysis throughout this chapter. One very popular series, The Power of a Praying [Parent, Wife, Husband, Woman, Teen.] by Stormie Omartian has been on the Christian bestseller lists since its inception in 1995. The Power of a Praying Wife broke an industry record with its twenty-seven week run at number one (Harve st House) and can eas ily be called one of the most influential Christian womenÂ’s self -help books on the market. From the very beginning, The Power of a Praying Wife locates woman in reference to man. The absolute separation of the masculine and fe minine gender and their disparate roles are upheld, and the linear chain of family command and standard hierarchy is never challenged; there are no attemp ts at a progressive re-readi ng of these tenets. The bookÂ’s two theses are (1) A wife who prays for her husband in the right way reaps a harvest of benefits beyond her understanding; (2) No ma tter her personal circumstances, a womanÂ’s
86 place is one of submission to God through he r husband. Broken up into chapters that detail the different areas of a manÂ’s li feÂ—Â“His Wife,Â” Â“His Finances,Â” Â“His Temptations,Â” Â“His Integrity,Â” Â“His ChoicesÂ”Â—the book is meant to illuminate the man and guide the woman to better serve him th rough prayer with a specific agenda. By continually representing woman as the derivative of man, or as Omartian would probably say, by recognizing the rightful station of man as head of the household, The Power of a Praying Wife attempts to provide a template for a coherent feminine subjectivity. Although it goe s unrecognized, this text, like all of the others to be discussed here, actually sends contradict ory messages about womanhood and creates an often impossible set of ideals that can only c ontribute to the temporal schizophrenia of the Christian Right womanÂ’s subjectivity. Although testimonials abound on this bookÂ’s efficacy in the lives of Christian women, The Power of a Praying Wife is an excellent representative sample of the perpetuation of some of the most fundamentalist (and contradictory) ideas about femininity. These ideas are part of the destructive ideology that constructs the postmodern subjectivity of the Christian Right woman using modern frameworks. One of the books in a bestselling series similar to OmartianÂ’s, Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle: Guarding Your Mind, Hear t, and Spirit in a Sex-Saturated World by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburnvii, is an example of a text that includes many of OmartianÂ’s ideas regarding the innumerable f acets of a Christian womanÂ’s responsibility to submit to men, even before she is in a marriage relationship. The reader of this book is assumed to be an adolescent girl or her parent s, the latter of whom are encouraged to preread the text or read along w ith their daughter in order to an swer questions about some of
87 the frank sexual discussion in the text. M eant to help readers realize the goal of abstinence until marriage, this text also c ontains information for young women who have become sexually active and wish to recommit to abstinence, as well as advice on how to be an appropriate participant in the Christia n dating scene. Often taboo subjects, such as pornography addiction and ma sturbation, are discussed fr om a very conservative Christian point of view. Although the Â“foundationalÂ”viii Christian self-help text, The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love (1976), by Tim and Beverly LaHaye is more of a classic Christian text than Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle it is more progressive because it encourages women to be more proactive about their sexu al satisfaction. This sex manual provides detailed chapters on female and male physiol ogy and practical and detailed instruction on solving particular sexual problems within the confines of marriage, from advice on impotency to how virgin women can avoid pain on their wedding nights. The sheer volume of information and matter-of-fact tone of the text are somewhat empowering to readers of both genders. The textÂ’s charge that men are responsible for the success of both sexual and non-sexual co mmunication with their pa rtners is refreshing. Furthermore, the authors implicitly claim that a womanÂ’s essential role as a caretaker, both sexual and otherwise, has the power to make or break her husband. They even link sexual caretaking to increased spiritual faith in men, telling a story of a Â“lukewarm ChristianÂ” (31) husband who became a more sp iritual Christian after his wife received counseling and became more responsive in bed. However, regardless of how revolutionary all the frank talk about the or gasms of both women and men was and is, at least for a Christian Right text, the authors s till choose to contain wo men within the role
88 of receiver, or Â“responderÂ” (145) and men with in the role of Â“aggressor, provider, and leaderÂ” (34). Women are even twice referred to as Â“the object of his loveÂ” (41, 44). The perpetuation of the Madonna paradigm is more mu ted in this particular text because, after all, it is difficult to reconcile healthy sexuality with the purity of the feminine ideal, but somehow the LaHaye team manages to do just that. Although Beverly LaHaye is named as the sole author of The Spirit Controlled Woman the book focuses on her husbandÂ’s adapta tion of the theory of the four temperamentsÂ—sanguine, choleric, mela ncholic, and phlegmaticÂ—borrowed from popular psychology. Regardless, this self-hel p book is a classic Ch ristian Right text originally published in 1976 but still very popular w ith evangelical women. The Spirit Controlled Woman teaches women how their temperament/s and their mateÂ’s temperament/s combine in their marriage and how they can use this knowledge to best achieve the peace and fulfillment of a sp irit-controlled lif e. A postmodern accommodation to the affective turn in Amer ican culture during the 1960s, the LaHaye conception of temperaments is a fusion of current therapeutic pop-psychology culture with ideological Christianity and Biblical sc ripture. Presented as spiritual common sense with the know-how of scientif ic fact, this mix has attracted many consumers, men and women alike. It should not come as a su rprise that for Beverly LaHaye, a womanÂ’s submission is the most important indicator of a spirit-filled life; submission in different (and often puzzling) forms comprises much of the bookÂ’s instructive material outside of the discussion of the four temperamentsix. A Christian Right text very different in form from all of the above, the bestselling Woman, Thou Art Loosed: Healing the Wounds of the Past still perpetuates the idea of
89 Madonna-like submission, even as it espouses femininity as a powerful force. T.D. JakesÂ’s self-help text, which is a coll ection of very loosely organized, often conversational or pulpit-pounding lectures, has some repeating motifs regarding the effects of abuses committed against women a nd many comments on general self-esteem. Focusing on the abstract configuration of feminine victimhood, this book encourages women to claim their right to power as God has designed it to be theirsÂ—through the metaphors of the body. Lacking any practical advice, JakesÂ’s text is more of an emotional release for him and his readers ra ther than a manual on self-empowerment, but apparently this sort of guided release is necessary enough to make Jakes a bestselling author. Essentialism: The Foundational Argument in Christian Right Self-Help Books These Christian Right texts I have sel ected as illustrative of the Christian womenÂ’s self-help genre depend heavily on essent ialist arguments. Although this is to be expected to some degree, the imbedded rh etoric of absolute gender difference and biological determinism guarantees that any r eader not consciously guarding against it gets sucked into the fallacious lo gic. Books that are not classi fied as fiction and that have as their audience readers who are seeking se lf-improvement may not invite readers to make decisions, conscious or unconscious, re garding the suspension of disbelief. Furthermore, in a popular environment suffused with essentialism, it is very unlikely that many readers question these kinds of stereotypical notions, even as Â“political correctnessÂ” is a superficial requirement for all. From within the logic of the conservative ChristianÂ’s version of biological determinism, menÂ’s and womenÂ’s roles are biblically and physically
90 naturalized, leaving little r oom for personal difference or choice, indeed often making these factors seem counterproductive or even sinf ul. In this case, the utilization of reason becomes blasphemous. The effects of this judgmental environment on subjectivity construction can result in an internalization of the punitive role, and if not, there are countless examples of societ al punishment for deviation from the prescripted norms, especially within the confines of this c onservative ideology. Chri stian Right self-help texts perpetuate biological determinism thr ough numerous rhetorical formats, from the explicitly determinis tic metaphor to the logically conc rete list of absolute gender differences. Some authors even choose to assume that readers are already so intellectually committed to this doctrine that these rhetorical steps are skipped completely, and they rely instead on essent ialized arguments with unspoken and often indecipherable premises. T.D. JakesÂ’s Woman, Thou art Loosed focuses on the popular opinion that God designed women to be receivers. Jakes even offers an electrical outlet metaphor to make his point: In order to take advantage of the [electric] power, something must be plugged into the receptacle. The receptacle is the female and the plug is the male. Women were made like receptacles. They were made to be receivers. Men were made to be givers, physically, sexually, and emotionally, and by providing for others in every area, women were made to receive. (69) Although JakesÂ’s syntax is problematic here, the context shows that he is assigning the role of Â“giverÂ” to man and Â“receiverÂ” to woman, which contradicts his next ideaÂ—
91 women were created to be femini ne assistants, which is a Â“giv ingÂ” role. He insists that woman was made from and for man to be a Â“h elp meetÂ”: Â“[. .] She helps him meet and accomplish his taskÂ” (69) and continues on to compare a man to a power saw that has great potential but can cut nothing without be ing plugged into a power outlet (70). He claims that women as a potential power sour ce are vulnerable because to be a provider of power means that they must be Â“openÂ” (70) in comparison to with their male counterparts, who are Â“closedÂ” (70). Accordi ng to Jakes, God provi ded the covenant of marriage to protect women from being victim s of men who want to take power without giving back: Â“You must be careful what you allow to plug into you and draw strength from you. The wrong plug may seek your help and drain your powerÂ” (70). At this point, the whole metaphor falls apart because in this scenario, the men are dependent upon what they receive from women in order to Â“power upÂ” their internal resources, so women, are, in fact, the give rs, and men the receivers. Regardless of the efficacy or inefficacy of his metaphors, it is interesting that as Jakes seeks to empower women, he reinvent s an old metaphor and imposes biological essentialism on both men and women, who are re duced in his metaphor to extensions of their sexual organs. He furt hers this idea with a new metaphor in his Â“Womb-ManÂ” chapter by insisting that women bear not onl y the worldÂ’s childre n, but all the worldÂ’s good: Â“If thereÂ’s going to be any virtue, any pr aise, any victory, any deliverance, itÂ’s got to come throughÂ” (75) women with enormous pain and suffering he likens to childbirth (74). JakesÂ’s dependence on the metaphor of the female body c ontinues throughout the book and becomes oppressive in its prevalence, although it is constan tly linked to power: Â“Put the truth in your spirit and feed, nurture and allow it to grow. Quit telling yourself,
92 Â‘YouÂ’re too fat, too old, too la te, or too ignorant.Â’ Quit feeding yourself that garbage. That will not nourish the baby. Too often we st arve the embryo of faith that is growing within usÂ” (81). Jakes is certainly not alone in his belief that womenÂ’s collective and powerful purpose is to mother the world. Apparently the assumption that women ar e to be mothers of the world is a common theme for evangelicals because R. Ma rie Griffith, an Associate Professor of Religion at Princeton University, hears this rhetoric in connecti on with Women Aglow, one of the evangelical womenÂ’s groups she has studied. Women Aglow, the multinational charismatic prayer organization that is the focus of GriffithÂ’s research, asserts the following opinion regarding womenÂ’s power: Â“women hold the unsurpassable advantage of being chosen by God to beget new forms of existence, to give birth to the Kingdom of God by means of a spir itual labor that is at once th e most humble yet also the most glorious labor imaginableÂ” (199). De pending on oneÂ’s perspective, the intertwined power and imprisonment that is part of c onstructing feminine subjectivity through body and motherhood metaphors is either an emoti onal minefield or a rich opportunity for multi-layered self-actualization. It is yet another example of the complications of postmodern femininity, even within the text s of the Christian Right, which attempt to create a seamless coherence from the tangled web of womenÂ’s subjec tivity construction. Some authors attempt to portray the Â“commonsense simplicityÂ” of gender by using a textbook approach in their diss emination of the doctrine of biological determinism. One of the rhetorical tools us ed by Ethridge and Arte rburn in the beginning of Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle Â—the bifurcated Â“Guys/GirlsÂ” chartÂ—locates its discourse firmly within the essentialist tr adition of Christian Right literature and
93 explicitly delineate s the biological determinism readers ha ve to accept in order to be able to understand (or suspend their need to unders tand) other theses of the book. This chart from page twenty-one summarizes some of th e finer points of the biological determinism that has imprisoned women for cen turies and is reproduced in Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle to indoctrinate yet anot her generation of young women: Guys Girls Â• driven by their physical desires Â• driven by their emotional desires Â• crave physical intimacy Â• crave emotional intimacy Â• stimulated by what they see Â• stim ulated by what th ey hear and feel Â• give love to get sex Â• give sex to get love Â• body can disconnect from mind, heart, and spirit Â• body, heart, and mind intricately connected Once this argument is established in such a simple and commonsense format, other fallacious reasoning can also be glossed over, such as the assumption that women should caretake even those men who reify them as sex objects. Another assumption that further reifies th e young women readers of this Christian Right text and subordinates them is the beli ef that all young girls have as their most cherished goal the prize of ma rriage. Education, career, and platonic relationships hold no sway in Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle but there is a chapter called, Â“Becoming Mrs. Right.Â”x The authors claim to have asked six young Christian men what their Â“top tenÂ” are in a potential wife, and their answers are followed by instructions from Ethridge and Arterburn about how to become the woman these young men seek. Included are statements such as, Â“She is nurturing and would make a good mother somedayÂ”; Â“She is supportive of what I want to do with my lif e and encourages meÂ”; Â“She has her own dreams and goals that I can help her fulfillÂ”; Â“She is adventurous and can enjoy at least some of my hobbiesÂ” (205-7). There is no explanation about the power differential expressed in the statements of the yo ung men, and the problems of compulsory
94 motherhood, feminine Â“encouragementÂ” vers us masculine Â“help,Â” and the lack of reciprocation regarding personal interests are never addressed by the authors. It is not surprising that these young men have idealized notions about their future mates that include implicit requirements for feminine submission. It is disappointing, however, that the authors, who have written a guide for young women, neglect to actually guide them. Instead, they condone the domi nation of women by failing to explicitly recognize power as an issue and even implicitly advise their readers to give up power in the romantic relationship. As progenitors of the contemporary Christ ian Right, the LaHaye team utilizes the technique of essentializing in much the same way as the other authors mentioned. In The Act of Marriage there are no charts, but femininity and masculinity are completely dichotomized within the text. According to the authors, most little girls want to be housewives and mothers, while little boys want to be firemen, doctors, or jet pilots (501). Perhaps this career differentiation along power lines can be linked to the authorsÂ’s beliefs about sex drive, which the LaHayes cl aim is Â“sporadicÂ” in women, yet Â“continualÂ” (34) in men. Fortunately, the authors clai m that female sex drive can be improved by romance; even women who seem practically-mi nded are hiding an intrinsic need for their husband to be Â“the image of prince charmi ng on his white horse coming to wake up the beautiful princess with her first kiss of loveÂ” (55). A Dialogue: Judith Butler Â“TalksÂ” with Tim and Beverly LaHaye There is no way out of the essentialist tr ap; the LaHaye team claims that even women who claim to feel differently are hi ding a desire for masculine rescue behind a
95 faade of pragmatism. Judith ButlerÂ’s theory of gender performance resonates more than ever in the discussion of Christian Right womenÂ’s subjectivity construction when it confronts logic such as the LaHayesÂ’s. Their opini on of the ubiquity of female desire for masculine rescue deserves examination from the perspective of gender performance. According to their ideas, any differentiation fr om the naturalized feminine stereotype is identified as the gender performance, rather than the essentialized role itself. What is true for some or most, they assert, is true for everyone, regardless of who they are, and anyone who says they are Â“differentÂ” is pretending, or performing. Furthermore, it is up to the LaHayes (as representatives of the Christian Right) to decide what standards of gender are to be appropriately imposed on the world at large. Leaving little or no room for individual variation, the bla nket biological determinism foun d in these examples, and the coherent representation of the performance of Christian Right women is so seamless that it seems popped from a plastic mold. The La HayesÂ’s built-in disclaimer to explain away any gender difference as a lack of self-actuali zation is a revealing t hought that highlights the constrictive nature of what must be a fr agile position of coherenc e, even if it is the most dominant position. How strong can the position of collective coherence be? If even the LaHaye team, unquestionable leaders in their arena, a ssert an argument as flimsy as the Â“womenwho-say-they-donÂ’t-want-the-w hite-horse-are-pretendingÂ” op inion to discount apparent gender difference in favor of an invisible a nd collective Â“realÂ” gender, then the whole house of gender coherence must be shaky indeed Much of the Christian RightÂ’s focus on gender seems surreptitiously designed to shame or intimidate men and women into following the prescripted norms the Christian Right has established; fortunately, coercion
96 alone cannot create truth. In th is particular case, the transp arence of the forced collective performance actually supports Bu tler in her insistence that ge nder is not an outward sign of an inward truth: If gender is instituted through acts whic h are internally discontinuous, then the appearance of substance is precisely that, a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment which the mundane social audience, including the actors themselves, come to believe and to perform in the mode of belief. If the ground of gende r identity is the stylized repetition of acts through time, and not a seem ingly seamless identity, then the possibilities of gender transformation are to be found in the arbitrary relation between such acts, in the po ssibility of a different sort of repeating, in the breaking or subvers ive repetition of that style. (415) To accept this argument, one must first accept that one Â“doesÂ” oneÂ’s gender only periodically, rather than all of the time. This would mean that separate acts or performances make up an individualÂ’s gende r instead of that gender emanating from some hidden center. Gender revolution, then, is possible because not only is gender a construct, but there are intervals and rela tionships between the gendering moments in which an individual could choose to perform something differently. For example, a man who flexes his muscles while he helps a wo man carry groceries is performing one gender that he can later adjust when he dons an apron to cook dinner for a friend. He can, through his own agency, perform whatever gender he wishes. If faced with ButlerÂ’s promise, the LaHa ye team might protest that she, too, resorts to their rhetorical magic. They might protest that whereas they claim an
97 omniscient knowledge of the in ternal subjectivities of al l women by positing that women who seem different are in fact, just ig norant of their real desires, Butler makes the opposite, yet equal claim that sh e knows that the women who seem the same are the ignorant ones. However, Butler provides ev idence in support of both pieces of her argumentÂ—an explanation of performers who ar e historically coherent and those who are notÂ—that originates from within the argument itself, rather than from her own intrinsic knowledge of the internal subject ivity of others. Her argumen t is self-perpetuating, while the argument of the LaHaye team comes out of and concludes with their own experience and knowledge of all women. In other word s, ButlerÂ’s argument depends only on itself to explain its own discontinuities. Accordi ng to her theory, exceptions to the rule of gender performance only further reveal the ex istence of gender as a performance because these exceptions are the momentary revelati on of the breaks in the performanceÂ’s continuity and have the potential to be sites of gender differe nce, or even transformation. In a world where part of the acceptable gender performance of women is to make some of the choices regarding their persona l power, the Christian Right woman is often discounted as a backward enigma, and it certainly appears th at her subjectivity construction depends on elisions of logic, such as the aforementioned example from The Act of Marriage In the case of the textual perp etuation of the Madonna paradigm, the requirement for feminine submission is one such elision, especially when the paradigm is clarified by breaking it down into the pieces of its representation in Christian Right texts. Essentialism is the main argument through which submission is asserted, and although this argument is flawed, it is effective because it uses a simple format to explain away many patterns and contradictions in gender relations.
98Responsibility Without Authority Part of the umbrella argument of biological determinism is the resulting injustices of unequal responsibility between men and women and an often stultifying set of requirements that doom most women to an imposed inadequacy unrecognized by the very system that creates it. Not surprisingly, this inequality is never adequately justified, and is yet another example of an elision of logi c, and although this is often a topic of much discussion, most of the responsibility in a marriage is foisted upon the woman. Ironically, in Christian Ri ght texts, this assignment of resp onsibility does not result in an increase in feminine authority, and side-by-side with voluminous lists of all of the things that fall under the purview of feminine responsibility are assertions of femininityÂ’s submission to masculinity. The most voluminous lists of respons ibilities can be found in OmartianÂ’s The Power of a Praying Wife, and some of these lists include prayer responsibilities. Women should pray for their husbands no matter wh at but release their husbands from the obligation of praying for their wives in return. Selfless pray er is apparently the goal for women, but not men. The aut hor recognizes that wives n eed prayer, too, but advises them to seek prayer fellowship though re lationships with other women, even claiming this is what is best for the marriage itself (21). How a wife prays is important, too, and she is responsible for making the necessary ch anges in herself in order to see results: Â“This whole requirement is especially hard when you feel your husband has sinned against you with unkindness, lack of respect, indifference, irresponsibility, infidelity, abandonment, cruelty, or abuse. But God c onsiders the sins of unforgiveness, anger, hatred, self-pity, lovelessness, and revenge to be just as bad as any ot hersÂ” (27). Because
99 this list was perhaps declared irresponsible by her editor or publishe r due to the potential implications for victims of domestic violence Omartian includes a disclaimer of sorts as a mere parenthetical insertion a few pages la ter: Â“(In fact, if you are in any kind of physical or emotional danger, remove yourself immediately from the situation to a place of safety and get help. You can pray from there while your husband receives the counseling he needs)Â” (29). There are also the wifely responsibilitie s that come with running the household for oneÂ’s husband, and these are appa rently infinite and inescapable: I donÂ’t care how liberated you are, wh en you are married there will always be two areas that will ultimately be your responsibility: home and children. Even if you are the only one working and your husband stays home to keep the house and tend the ki ds, you will still be expected to see that the heart of your home is a peaceful sanctuary [. .]. On top of this, you will also be expected to be sexually appealing, a good cook, a great mother, and physically, emotionally, and spiritually fit. ItÂ’s overwhelming to most women, but the good news is that you donÂ’t have to do it all on your own. You can seek GodÂ’s help. (Omartian 37) OmartianÂ’s list exemplifies th e aphorism about the endlessness of womenÂ’s work. A woman is to be everything at once; she embodies wife, mother lover, sex object, housecleaner, breadwinner. All of the incompatibilities between these roles are disguised by their union under the umbrella of cont emporary Christianity, which some claim unifies them, but in fact, only provides th e veneer that covers their splintered subjectivities. As if thes e requirements do not impose enough pressure, the author even
100 resorts to a certain fear factor to im pose on women the weightiness of their responsibilities, insinuating that husbands will only remain faithful to certain kinds of wives. Male self-control is only requir ed if wives continually make themselves entertaining, attractive (52, 61), and always se xually available: Â“wheth er you feel like it or not isnÂ’t the pointÂ”; she in sinuates that there will always be other women available, willing, and able to do all of these things (62). Assigning blame in cases of marital infidelity is further complicated in the au thorÂ’s scenario because not only should women expect unfaithfulness if they are tired or overweight, but they should realize that men cannot help it. Men are esp ecially vulnerable to temptation because for them, sex is Â“pure needÂ” (62) as opposed to the often unnecessary expressi on of physical affection it is for women. The Spirit-Controlled Woman like The Power of a Praying Wife also includes instructions concerning the fulfillment of marital submission in the form of daily responsibilities to be accomp lished. There is motherhood itself, the avoidance of which Beverly LaHaye dedicates a whole section, hypothesizing that what keeps women (and men) from achieving their Â“normal desireÂ” ( 164) to Â“replenish th e earthÂ” (166) has nothing to do with the altruistic concerns many cite as their reasons for remaining childless. She claims that there is Â“often a current of selfishne ss flowing beneath the most acceptable of excusesÂ” (166). This se lf-righteous indignation directed toward women who do not share her belief in the Â“b iological imperativeÂ” to have children is mean-spirited and almost misogynistic in its reduction of acceptable womanhood to her ideal femininity, which is draw n from the Madonna paradigm.
101 Even given the importance Beverly LaHaye assigns to motherhood, she still asserts that a wifeÂ’s primary responsibili ty is making her husband happy, claiming that this will bring happiness to both of them (171). She does not recognize any situation in which a husbandÂ’s happiness might run count er to his wifeÂ’s happiness; once again, derivative status is reinfor ced through the marriage relatio nship. Even if it means reforming oneÂ’s personality, a woman should do it to please her husband (196), although she should also accept him just the way he is and not attempt to change him (210). After all, according to this logic, it was she who was created for him, and anything she does to detract from his pleasure in her de tracts from her lifeÂ’s purpose. Part of that pleasure, too, is in being the object of a husbandÂ’s sexual desires, and although it is not delineated in the same amount of detail as Omartian uses, Beverly LaHaye claims that keeping the sexual intere st of oneÂ’s husband is a responsibility that overlaps the private sphere of the bedroom w ith the public sphere of socialization. A womanÂ’s behavior in both places determin es whether or not her husband will seek physical gratification elsewh ere, and the author of A Spirit-Controlled Woman states that this propensity for adultery is especially tr ue of certain personality types, who need to conquer other women to satisfy their ego or who have a weak will that makes them easy targets for loose women (193). These masculin e portrayals of certa in personality types are spoken of in a tone that removes all responsibility from the men and place it squarely on the shoulders of their wives; these hus bands may be weak-willed, but their wivesÂ’s reaction to this flaw is what determ ines the course of their marriage.
102 Cultivating a Womanly Christian Appearance Another interesting link be tween Beverly LaHayeÂ’s text and countless others, including OmartianÂ’s, is its concentrati on on a womanÂ’s cultivation of her physical attributes, whatever they may be. Women are also advised of the advantages of utilizing the countless commodities avai lable to improve oneÂ’s appearance. This is linked to marital satisfaction and Godliness: I feel very strongly that when a woma n fully accepts herself as a creature that God has made, she will do her best to prune, trim, manicure, and even paint the object of GodÂ’s love and care It is a pity to see a Christian woman who has developed her inner beauty, but who has done nothing to the frame she must house it in [. .]. With all the beauty care products available today, there is no need for a woman to let herself get [worn out looking][. .] IÂ’m sure [God] enjoys seeing a woman delight in taking care of His handiwork. God does want th e hidden woman of the heart to be beautiful, but a little work on the out er woman helps the whole person. I believe it is God-honoring. (159-60) At another point, LaHaye likens a woman to Â“the most beautiful flower in a manÂ’s gardenÂ” (216), reminding readers that Â“even roses need to be cultivated, pruned, and cared forÂ” (216). There are no apologies for the objectification these statements impose on women, nor is there any recognition anyw here in the book that women may feel differently about the importance of their phys ical appearance or have time or financial constraints that keep them from being ab le to treat themselves like flowers.
103 In The Act of Marriage the LaHaye team explicitly connects the feminine submission of even unmarried women to their maintenance of a certain kind of feminine appearance. Performatively and coherently gendering oneself is linked with feminine submission to both worldly masculinity and the Heavenly Father; women who become Christians become more coherently gende redÂ—in appearance and personalityÂ—as a natural result. The LaHayes tell the story of Jeri: Â“when she first started attending services, she wore blue jeans and a white Tshirt. Outwardly she was somewhat coarse and independent. As she grew in her faith in the Lord, she began to dress up and fix her hair. Surprisingly she proved to be a very attractive young womanÂ” (56). Jeri is a success story because her newfound faith and pu blic gender performance attracts a man who both Â“treats [her] like a ladyÂ” (56) and marries her. One explanation for this concen tration on appearance is found in GodÂ’s Daughters Griffith explains: As outer and inner selves become identic al, inner beauty is expected to be reflected on the outside, evidenced by increased energy and enthusiasm as well as more material signs [. .] ma nifestations of external attractiveness Â—bright clothing, slimness, makeup, n eatly combed hair, manicured nails [. .] are emblems of transformation. (104) Although GriffithÂ’s explanation has a more se lf-affirming ring to it than anything offered by Beverly LaHaye or Stormie Omartian, it is still suspect that these women outwardly exhibit their inward transformations by imita ting the same behavior Christian women are advised to incorporate into themselves in order to prevent their husbands from committing adultery.
104 The Depth of the Image in Christ ian Capitalism: Making it Â“FitÂ” Perhaps the reconciliation of a sexualized appearance with feminine Christian submission can be explained through Christ ian ideologyÂ’s accommodation to American consumerism that results in the articulation of Christianity with the more dominant ideological engine of capitalism. Consumer ism is so much the focus of American life that it logically follows that any activity or belief that incorpor ates the practice of consumption will be more successful than that which cannot. Christian consumerism provides an opportunity to unite the sacred and the profane in a heady mix that has created a formidable Christian market no l onger overlooked in American business. On another corresponding level, there is the profane objectificati on of the body and the sexualized consumerism that is also integrat ed into the mix as soon as Christian women are pressured to take up the responsibility for self-object ification for the good of their faith and their marriages. Although it is surp rising, these particular incorporations of contemporary life into the ancient ideology of Christianity are effective and necessary accommodations for the continued relevanc y of the faith. Although aspects of contemporary life, such as the aforementione d consumer practices that mix the sacred and profane, are not in themselves postmodern, the contemporary practice of deconstructing dichotomies in order to re define them and occasionally unite themÂ— sacred/profaneÂ—is postmodern. The Ch ristian Right woman, once she accepts contemporaneity in ways that contradict her faith (and these acceptances cannot be avoided) is postmodernizing he rself and by extension, Christianity as a whole. The examples of self-help texts discussed in this chapter re veal important changes wrought upon contemporary Christianity through the perpetuation of certain ideas found in
105 Christian popculture. There is a temporal ly Â“Schizophrenic Chri stian Right womanÂ” subject being recognized and confirmed in these books, which implicitly state that subjective incoherence is acceptable. This process of change is best explained by AlthusserÂ’s conception of ideology. From an Althusserian persp ective, because Christianity is an ideology, it is a creator of subjects. Christia n Right women are largely influe nced, as independent agents and subjects, by the ideologica l processes of subject creat ion imposed on Christians. These processes constantly address the subjec t and produce her from w ithin itself, so she is Â“always-alreadyÂ” (132) s ubjected and without agency. Furthermore, the ideology of Christianity is subjected to the ideology of the ruling class, which in this case is the capitalism that simultaneously subjects the Christian Right woman. The consumption of certain productsÂ—not necessarily always pr oducts marketed as Christian commoditiesÂ— is part of the way Christian Right women Â‘ act according to their ideasÂ’ (126-7), or beliefs, and this consumer behavior is also pa rt of their ritualized material practice of Christianity. For example, makeup is not a commodity marketed exclusively to Christians, but its consumption is cited in Ch ristian Right texts as a way for parents of lesbian children to simultaneously Christianize and feminize their daughters in an attempt to cure them of their Â“gende r confusion.Â” This type of ideological consumption locates and relocates Christian Right women as subjec ts within the ideology of both the church apparatus and the capitalist apparatus, and it is these actions as Christian consumers that often most visibly mark them as s ubjects of the Christian ideology. Althusser would probably identify this sp iritualized consumerism as the behavior that reveals the Â“duplicate mirror-structure of ideologyÂ” (135). These behaviors allow
106 Christian Right women to recognize themselv es as subjected subjects, God as the subjecting subject, and other belie vers as subjects, as well. All of this mutual recognition reinforces the correctness of th eir beliefs and the conviction th at they should, in fact, act according to these ideas. Many Christian ideas are historical construc ts, and because this is so, the ideology must adapt to whatever hist ory in which it finds itself. Only in this occurrence can it guarantee the reproduction of its own m eans of production, which for Christianity means that it must reprod uce its labor power by maintaining its own membership and the conditions that make membership possible. Reflecting (or directing, depending on th e point of view) the adaptations of Christianity to its current circumstances, the Christian Right woman becomes an evolving sign of her belief system. As such, she is emblematic of the historical sensitivity Christianity has to adaptÂ—even in a postmode rn environment that, at first glance, might seem to render it irrelevant. The gender performance of cultivating a sexualized appearance easily falls under the category of marking, c ontributing to a sense of community that is further engendered by othe r consumptive Christian behaviors, too. The maintenance of a specific feminine Ch ristian appearance does more than just naturalize the notions of a wo manÂ’s responsibility to look a certain way; it becomes a requirement for the acceptance of a woman in to the Christian Right community, as well as a measure of her spiritual depth. This counterintuitive contradi ction Â— surface equals depth Â— discloses another way that the Ch ristian ideologyÂ’s incorporations of contemporaneity postmodernize the Christ ian Right woman. She is performing a gendered behavior that reveals the contradi ctory confluence of surface and depth, while simultaneously encouraging the postmodern turn to the pervasiveness of the image.
107 Ironically, fundamentalist beliefs focus in part on the unchanging rigidity of GodÂ’s word and certain interpretations of it, making few allowances for competing views; certainly, to fundamentalists, the very idea that they are ad apting to the secular environment they consider a conspiratorial victimizer would be an accusation of ingenuity and failure on their part. Howeve r, adaptation is indeed occurring on many levels of Christian consciousness, especia lly when one considers the self-help texts analyzed here. One important adaptation that accurately portrays both the flexibility of Christianity and its believers is the postmode rn reformation of the doctrine of feminine submission. The Christian Right WomanÂ’s Reframing of Submission After reading OmartianÂ’s e ndless lists of household responsibilities, Beverly LaHayeÂ’s edicts regarding co mpulsory motherhood, and EthridgeÂ’s and ArterburnÂ’s prose lectures on adolescent girls dressing to Â“lift others up,Â” it becomes apparent that successful submission and imitation of the Madonna paradigm are not for the fainthearted and may be impossible for even the mo st dedicated and selfless of women. In an environment where many wives and mothers must work outside of the home, and still accomplish all of the other tasks required of their sex, Christianity has been forced to adapt to the conditions of the working woman and feminism itself. Christian Right selfhelp texts are far from femini st texts, but they have been influenced by an American cultural milieu that includes feminist t hought. This does not mean that women are relieved of their proletariat responsibilities to su pport the status quo of their masculine counterparts, but rather, that they adopt a new responsibilityÂ—to make the necessary
108 subjective negotiations that will allow them to fulfill multiple Christian roles without feeling out of synch with contemporary societ y and culture. The result is a combination of ideologiesÂ—Christianity, feminism, consumerismÂ—that do not necessarily complement one another without an extensive reworking of the definition of feminine submission into a powerful position. The onl y way this complicated system of selfsubjecting is conceivable is through the Christ -like martyrdom of wo men and their ability to reframe their own domination in terms of superhuman strength and self-control: a wifeÂ’s submission deconstructs itself to a ffect her dominance over her husband. This deconstructed submission, however, does not le ad to a total dominance, or even a dominance equal to that enforced by the masculine portion of this fundamentalist dichotomy. It is a dominance that still maintains the status quo, perhaps even contributing to patriarchy by maintaining its appearance as natural and allowing it to flourish unhindered within this particular societal sphere. Unfortunately, much of the power distilled from the Christian Right woma nÂ’s reframing of submission is internal and is often harvested for patriarchy itself. For example, the Â“different but equalÂ” essentialist argument pursues a vision of women as feminine sources of power that are considered counterpoints to the powers supposedly intrinsic in men. According to th is point of view, wome n must learn to use their womanhood to their advantage, and refusing to do so is like a refusal to recognize and be thankful for gifts from God. Like ning womanhood to the Parable of the Talentsxi, this doctrine often contributes to stereotype d classifications of wo men as dishonest and opportunistic. Much of the more contemporar y advice to women is advocating an ultrafeminized demeanorÂ—saccharin and overly supp ortiveÂ—in order to gain Â“the power to
109 influenceÂ—or, in less flattering terms, ma nipulateÂ—oneÂ’s husband to oneÂ’s own endsÂ” (Griffith 185). While this provides women w ith easily accessible ways to assert their submissive power, this kind of power is supe rficial and temporary, and in reality, further binds them within the strict ures of a dichotomized, infe rior, and performative gender identity. Advice of this kind, however, harbors a dist orted view of the idea of a Christly submission, which is constructed as powerful in the truly selfless gi ving that originates under favorable circumstances between both wi fe and husband. Even in this event, though, the success of the union is apparently dependent first and foremost on the willing submission of the wife as the martyred Christ figure and the subordi nate. Readers find a similar structuring of the marri age relationship in more classi c Christian self-help texts, like The Spirit-Controlled Woman and The Act of Marriage although the message of the power of a Christly submission is more muted in favor of the glorification of the meek. Generally, the more contemporary notion of a powerful Christly submission was preceded by a simple assertion that su bmission does not mean subordinate. Unfortunately, in more classic texts, this oxym oronic assertion is ne ver explained in any way other than as an oversimplified insistence and perpetual re-statement. Beverly LaHayeÂ’s discussion of submissi on is at its most complex when she adapts it to current gender ro les by insisting that it does not equate with subordination, although this assertion is never satisf actorily explained. For example, in The SpiritControlled Woman Beverly LaHaye classifies women as equal to men, while simultaneously explaining that women are deri vative of men and were created for their satisfaction: Â“Woman is part of a man, not a le sser or greater part, but an equal. She is
110 GodÂ’s provision to give man total fulfillmentÂ” (155). Her later clarif ications do little but obfuscate the contradiction: The woman who is truly Spirit-filled w ill want to be totally submissive to her husband. Contrary to what ra dical feminists advocate, submission does not mean that the wife who subm its is a second-rate citizen. The wife is to submit to the Â“headshipÂ” of the husband, not the Â“lordship.Â” Lordship is to coerce someone to follow your will, while headship is to be responsible for creating an e nvironment of protection. (167) Eventually, the edict to submit leads to its framing as a powerful position, although as a predecessor to The Power of a Praying Wife The Spirit-Controlled Woman does not front this concept; rather, it is an addition that facilitates the explanation of submission as other than subordination. It is a womanÂ’s obedience to the commands of God that dictates her submission, not her husbandÂ’s love or behavior ( 210). In a story of dirty socks, reminiscent of the manner in which her husband furthers the great Chain of Being in his Left Behind series, Beverly LaHaye encourag es women to serve the Holy Father through the serv ice of His earthly representative man as embodied in her husband. In summary, the author tells of resentment toward her husband because he left his dirty socks on the floor every day, and she found hers elf equating the man with the dirty socks, rather than feeling love for him. After happening upon a scripture that equated wifely submission with womanly service to God Hims elf and heavenly rewards, LaHaye had a change of heart: I wasnÂ’t just picking up dirty sock s for my husband; I was serving the Lord Jesus by doing this, so I had to do it heartily as unto Him [emphasis
111 added]. The Lord was using dirty socks to teach me a lesson. [. .] Interestingly enough, after I confessed, I truly enjoyed serving the Lord and my husband. It was almost a time of devotion each day as I lovingly picked up those blessed dirty socks. (162-3) Pretending that oneÂ’s husband is Jesus in order to be able to serve him without resentment is an accomplished subjective feat that emphasizes a powerful mind control. Her personal narrative would be comical were it not profoundly dist urbing. LaHayeÂ’s personal anecdote proves that her reality is in fact of her own making, and her earthly submission can be reconstructed to suit he r in a more powerful, supernatural, and triumphant service to God that brings positive results in her daily life. This becomes especially true at the storyÂ’s conclusion wh en her husband just Â“decided one day to be more careful and to pick up after himselfÂ” (163); as a coup de grace LaHaye offers not only heavenly rewards for earthly servitude, but she insinuates that a wifeÂ’s submission can silently solve all of the niggling little issues that can make intimate living so annoying. She also reinterprets menial task s as sacred worship, and this particular subjective switch is also not ed by Griffith, who notes th at many members of Women Aglow, the subjects of her extensive researc h, considered wifely submission a strategic move meant to make husbands happier, and as a result, more tractable; one way this is accomplished is through the cheerful comp letion of Â“Â’sacred housework,Â’ wherein surrendering to oneÂ’s ordained tasks is seen as an act of worship that also leads to greater happiness in the homeÂ” (181). Like so many other Christian Right texts written for women, The SpiritControlled Woman returns to what is best for the man, always perpetuating the Biblical
112 doctrine of AdamÂ’s ribÂ—woman was created from and for manÂ—even in cases in which a husband is not a Christian. In the section titl ed, Â“Love Your Husband to Christ,Â” LaHaye reiterates the notion that women are often the powerful conduits through which God comes to their husbands, and she claims that it is through submissive love that men will be led to Christianity: Â“Some husbands become very demanding and somewhat unreasonable as the Holy Spirit convicts them. So it can be a time of suffering and trial for the family, especially the wife [. .]. It is GodÂ’s design that a wife submit to her husband, even if he is not a believerÂ” (238). This section does not explicitly list its requirements as choices that a woman must make in this situation, but the subtext is of a powerful submission because the sectionsÂ—Â“ Understand Him;Â” Â“Please Him;Â” Â“Respect Him;Â” and Â“Examine YourselfÂ”Â—are written fr om the point of view of gaining a Godly husband by creating an environment that fulfills all of his needs and guides him to satisfy his wife without her instruction: Â“And most of all, donÂ’t constantly remind your husband about GodÂ—instead, remind God about your husbandÂ” (239). One of the final sections of The Spirit-Controlled Woman Â“Examine Yourself,Â” details the emotional need that men have for a submissive wife, claiming that men are more frustrated by wives who refuse to re spect them through submission than by other failures of their masculinity, such as professi onal ones (240). Acco rding to LaHayeÂ’s logic, God commanded women to submit becau se their husbands have a dire need for their Â“respect and admirationÂ” (240), which is elsewhere in the text called obedience. An interesting twist, this idea makes an imp licit emotional plea to women for help in the maintenance of a husbandÂ’s masculinity through a wifely submission that will mask the fact that he was hitherto a failure at eliciting unconditiona l submission. This feminine
113 responsibility arises from a masculine inabilit y to cope with contemporary conditions that require gender negotiations around ideas like breadwinner and submission. Rather than allowing her husband to feel inadequate, which might motivate him to reflect critically on aspects of his own subjectivit y, the Christian Right woman is encouraged to create a somewhat dishonest environment in which she chooses (pretends?) to be dominated. At this point, the contemporary doctrine of powerful submission becomes dangerous because whether or not the submission has been reframed, pretending to be submissive/obedient and practicing true subm ission/obedience are certainly positions of subordination that invi te psychic damage. Powerful Caretaking: the Infantilization of Men One of the ways that the Christian Ri ght successfully reframes the notion of feminine submission and further accommodate s postmodernism is by infantilizing men. Creating a reality in which men are in need of their wivesÂ—wives who choose to submit to themÂ—conveys emotional power to the women, who are responsible for taking care of these men as they submit to their authorit y. Not only are women responsible for the traditional caretaking of their husbands, but contemporary Christian Right texts imply that certain wifely behavi ors protect their husbands fr om emasculation within the marriage, the emasculating trends of Amer ican society, and loose women on the prowl for impressionable men whose wives are not performing their gender appropriately. Furthermore, it is also often implied that men lack maturity and self-control, are generally undependable, and must be managed carefu lly. Paradoxically, women are urged to
114 depend on these same men for protection a nd spiritual guidance because men are bound by a holy mandate to be the family head. Readers of The Act of Marriage are confronted with the paradox of Â“baby-men;Â” in this text, men are infantilized without bei ng penalized in any way for their immaturity. Even though they Â“are just boys grown tallÂ” (3 8), it is a womanÂ’s responsibility to submit to and perpetuate that boyishness, rather than hold them to more adult standards. The Power of a Praying Wife too, extensively infantilizes men, yet they escape being dominated. For example, an unintended ma jor theme of the book is that women cannot depend on their husbands to be anything but childish tyrants: Â“My husband will not do something he doesnÂ’t want to do. And if he ends up doing something he doesnÂ’t want to do, his immediate family members will pay for itÂ” (33). According to the author, wives should submit anyway, praying for their husband s instead of resisting male domination. Despite their inability to behave as adults men are still the Â“headÂ” (as opposed to the Â“heartÂ”) of their households. Perhaps this s upposed entitlement to headship stems from OmartianÂ’s, and indeed, countless othersÂ’s, im pression that husbands are warriors out in the world: Â“Our husbands are on the batt lefield every day. There are dangers everywhere. Only God knows what traps the en emy has laid to bring accidents, diseases, evil, violence, and destruction into our lives Few places are safe anymore, including your own homeÂ” (107). This kind of paranoia is rampant in numerous Christian Right arguments, but in this instance it is even more ridiculous because of its pairing with the men-are-babies logic. How can women simu ltaneously infantilize their husbands while imagining them as the only force preventi ng the familyÂ’s horrific demise?
115 Using infantilization as a method fo r counteracting masculine domination continues into the bedroom. A common them e in Christian Right self-help books is the essentialized notion that G od intends for women to be the receivers of masculine largesse, especially in intercourse. In Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle the section on masturbation culminates in the negative e ffects masturbating can have on a married womanÂ’s sex life: Â“Most husbands find pleasur e and satisfaction in bringing their wives to orgasm. If you regularly find sexual release through masturbation, you may be robbing your future husband of this pleasure by f eeling the need to Â‘help himÂ’Â” (48). The potential of this approach for limiting a future wifeÂ’s sexual pleasure is not even given the recognition of a mention in this inst ance because, apparently, a womanÂ’s limited satisfaction should not take precedence over her husbandÂ’s perception of his own sexual ability and the connection of hi s sexual self-esteem with his satisfaction. So not only are the readers of this book encouraged in the chapter called Â“Pursui ng PowerÂ” to see young men as the only appropriate initia tors of a relationship (81-88 ), but they are also coached to see their future husbands as initiators of their sexual satisfac tion. Feminine sexual agency is viewed negatively because the s ubmissive wife should concentrate solely on her husbandÂ’s satisfaction and merely hope that he is a sexually ge nerous reciprocator who is capable of and desires achieving her sa tisfaction, as well. Abdicating her sexual agency is posited as the only effective Christian met hod available to a woman for ensuring a satisfying and long-term conjugal re lationship within a marriage. According to a medical practitioner cited by the LaHa ye team, women must accept that sexual satisfaction is inextricably linked with fe minine submission. The authors quote a Dr. Marie Robinsonxii at length, who connects the abilit y to achieve orgasm to a womanÂ’s
116 mature ability to surrender (191-2). Acco rding to this logic, the path of sexual satisfaction for a wife begins with self-sacr ifice: Â“Her own desire s become unimportant, and Â“because she thinks more of his needs th an of her own tiredness [. .], Her reward will be his ready response to her mood, a nd together they can share the rapturous experience of married loveÂ” (47). The deciding factor is a wifeÂ’s wi llingness to give up her power in order to create the possibility th at it will be returned to her in a different form by her husband. As an unnamed woman said to the LaHaye team, Â“A woman is the only creature who can conquer by surrenderingÂ” (192). Even more troubling than sexual infanti lization is the infantilization of men regarding their reactions to womenÂ’s amended appearances. Although in The SpiritControlled Woman Beverly LaHaye stresses the importa nce of going to great lengths to make oneself sexually desirable, once that f eat is accomplished, a woman is to blame for causing Christian men to commit the sin of lu st. Apparently, there is some sort of invisible line that divides attractive from provocative, but she gives no guidance about exactly how one can tastefully sexualize themselves for the public eye without becoming the perpetrators of temptation. The following quote explains that should a woman cross the Â“lust lineÂ” in her mode of dress, she is just as responsible for a manÂ’s lustful thoughts about her as he is: I have seen lovely girls clothe a nd conduct themselves in such a manner that they turn fellows on and cause th em to have problems with lust and evil thoughts [. . ] a Christian man ha s to overcome the temptation to lust after a woman, but I believe God hol ds the woman accountable for the manner in which she dresses and conducts herself. (141)
117 The onus of responsibility is, once again, laid firmly on the shoulders of the woman, who is to blame should her husband seek physical love elsewhere because his wife becomes unattractive to him; on the other hand, shoul d she make the mistak e of oversexualizing herself and attracting the atten tion of other men, then she is to blame for their sins, as well. The subjectivities of young, unmarried Ch ristian women are being constructed using the same methods because texts written specifically for them also preach the Madonna paradigm through the lens of subm issionÂ’s responsibili ties, especially appearance. The authors of Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn, focus on appearances, too, alt hough their focus is less on keeping a man faithful than preventing young women from committi ng the sin of tempting others to lust. They also most frequently combine flirting be haviors with sexualized dress as harmful to young men and even call flirting Â“cruelÂ” (99) Certain ambiguous statements, like many made by Beverly LaHaye, are not explained; take, for example, the following question drawn from a list called the Â“law vs. l ove filter,Â” a filter that helps young women differentiate between what is merely Â“legalÂ” a nd what is Â“rightÂ”: Â“There is no law against flattering clothes, but is your motive in wear ing them to build others up or to build up your own ego by turning a guyÂ’s head?Â” (28). What is left unsaid is how one builds others up through their dress and why it is necessary to do so. An ambivalence toward dressing to feel good is also expressed here and never adequately explained. The authors state th at young women may have to give up certain of their freedomsÂ—Â“in dress, thoughts, speech, and behaviorÂ” (29) to make sure that they are acting in othersÂ’s best inte rests. At what point, though, ca n they act in their own best
118 interests? Why is it that young women are give n the responsibility of caretaking others, even those with whom they have no relationshi p? The authors even admit to readers, or rather encourage them, at the sectionÂ’s conclusion, by saying that some men will find them sexy even when they are modestly dr essed (30). Not only does this statement buttress the assumption that all women are co mfortable with sexual objectifica tion, but it also further muddies the i ssue of temptation. What if young women attempt to dress modestly and still attract a manÂ’s attention, and then this man commits the sin of lust? Is the woman still responsible for inciting him to sin? This question and others like it may plague teenage girls reading such books because of the constant struggle between pleasing self and others that is such an e normous part of adolescence (especially female adolescence). In fact, since sexuality is the only arena that the book regards as under feminine power and control, it seems myst erious that the bookÂ’s obtuse, illogical arguments about men and women do not plague the selling power of what is meant to be an easy-to-understand guide for an impressionable consumer set. One very positive contribution made by Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle is due to its almost constant concentration on the psychology of both young women and young men. Even though the text makes many mistakes in the way that it portrays and discusses the inner lives of young women and men, it very effectively focuses on the importance of that inner life. Ethridge and Arterburn openly discu ss the counterpr oductive thought patterns that torture many young a dults, especially those that have to do with self-esteem and sexuality issues: Â“If your vanity leads you into sexual situati ons with young men who think you look hot or if your poor body image causes you to latch onto any guy willing to affirm your sex appeal in spite of how you feel about yourself, you are compromisingÂ”
119 (52). For these authors, self-esteem is in tricately and inextricably tied with positive Christian spirituality, and transforming a young womanÂ’s feelings about herself and her body is a large part of her journey toward a faith ful life. This focus on the self as part of becoming a Christian is a relatively new deve lopment in spiritual discourse and is yet another way that Christianity is adapting to postmodern conditions. Incorporating the Therapeutic: A Further Accommodatio n to Postmodernism Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle is not the only text analy zed here that draws from current therapeutic trends. There is a seemingly constant and unconscious borrowing from pop-psychology that establishes yet anot her adjustment Christian Right self-help texts are making to accommodate readersÂ’s n eeds for postmodern ideasÂ—religiosity must merge with therapeutic culture in order to su rvive as a relevant ideology. By hybridizing itself with the therapeutic, Christianity invi tes postmodern multiplicity and endangers the absolutes of fundamentalist thinking. No t only does the hybridization itself of Christianity to therapeutic culture refe r to postmodernism, but postmodernism is implicated already within the therapeutic. For example, therapeutic practice is often occupied with the interpretati on of different versions of truth. The modern idea of Â“TruthÂ” is invalidated by contemporary th erapeutic language. Every feeling felt by everyone is Â“validÂ” in much of pop-psychologyÂ’s discourse, and this, to o, lends itself to a multiplicity of realities that is nothing if not postmodern. Although this would be called amoral relativism by many in the Christian Right, this philosophi cal stance has not prevented even the most fundamentalist of texts from benefiting from ChristianityÂ’s evolution into a ther apeutic ideology.
120 The bestseller texts under di scussion in this chapter have psychological threads that are explicit or easily discernable. The Act of Marriage discusses many sexual aversions and encourages Christian counseling in the occurrence of a ny marital problems. Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle has a chapter on the subliminal e ffects of sex in the media. The Spirit-Controlled Woman has, as has been discussed, a concentration on temperaments. The Power of a Praying Wife discusses the effects of childhood issues on the relationship men have with their children. Woman, Thou Art Loosed has as one of its main objectives helping of female readers rec over from past abuses. Needless to say, the pervasiveness of the therapy culture in Amer ica makes it hard to find a self-help text, Christian or not, that does not draw heavily from some sort of psychological discourse. In fact, it is difficult to imagine the genre of self-help texts without realizing that it can only exist in such an affective environment. Griffith historicizes the rise of the therapeutic in American Evangelicalism by noting the tension in organized religion be tween demonizing psychology and integrating Â“provenÂ” effective techniques for helping unhappy people: Â“Popular evangelical writers increasingly began to discuss problems in term s of Â‘anxietyÂ’ and Â‘inferiority complexesÂ’ and advised readers on heightening Â‘self-esteemÂ’ and fulfilling Â‘emotional needs,Â’ however, and the boundaries between religious a nd secular prescriptions steadily blurredÂ” (36). Recovery groups, spurred by the germ inal Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step Program, not only led the way for the therap eutic culture that transformed AmericaÂ’s worldview, and along with it, th e worldview of American reli gion. They also heralded the rise of the Â“small group movementÂ” (37), at least according to Griffith. Christian Right self-help texts for wome n discussed here enjoy the exposure and revenue that
121 comes with a small group readership, which might occur in a small group such as a Christian book club or a Sunday school class. Griffith notes that th e great contradiction of recovery discourse within the small gr oup movement is the contradictory Â“powerful submissionÂ” so prevalent in differing degrees in both classic and more contemporary Christian Right self-help books for women. Griffith states: Â“Recovery discourse is grounded in notions of surrenderi ng control over oneÂ’s life, lear ning to be vulnerable with others and with God in order to cultivate re lationships of deeper intimacy. The paradox is that the therapeutic proce ss supposedly also involves learni ng to take charge of oneÂ’s life, accepting responsibility, and cultivating di sciplineÂ” (38). With the tenets of basic psychological thought and therapeutic culture seeping into religion, this contradiction cannot avoid influencing the subjectivity of Christian Right women, even though it negates many of their modernist beliefs. Pe rhaps the Christian Right womanÂ’s reworking of submission occurs in large part because of the pervasiveness of this wider therapeutic submission/power contradicti on in American culture. This is not to say that the women of Wo men Aglow or the larger set of Christian Right women are overpowering the patriarchal st ructures of evangelicalism. By locating their transformation on the ideological grounds of Biblical submission, these women are recoding a doctrine that can ne ver be completely separated from its destructive roots. There is still too much domination and mi sogyny in it: Â“The potential for abdicating personal will and desire in this worldview is not only individually stif ling but also [. .] politically immobilizing. Female surrender in this context all too often includes abdicating independent reflect ion and forfeiting self-prot ection, capacities which these women cannot afford to sacrificeÂ” (Griffith 213). Although Griffith cites her female
122 subjectsÂ’s behavior as Â“polit ically immobilizing,Â” it is quite the opposite if their personal power is harnessed for forces that they beli eve protect them, as in the case of activist organizations such as Concerned Women for America, who will be discussed in Chapter Five. Griffith, however, refers to political mobilization for the sake of the women themselves, and woman-centered politics is impossible in any situation in which the subjects are submitting, even if they choose to do so. Women Aglow has featured within its pub lic doctrinal statements a shift away from its fundamentalist hardline of feminine submission to male authority to a more liberal stance of Â“mutual submission and intimacy between men and womenÂ” (45). Between the 1970s and the 1990s, their organiza tional leadership underwent a change of heart so extreme that Griffith asserts that An expansive vision of liberation for Christian women, one closer to that of some feminist thinkers than even evangelicals or femi nists might like to believe, has been gathering steam among Aglow leaders; and while its eventual impact remains to be see n, its appearance may well presage a new era in evangelical thi nking about gender. (45-6) This shift in evangelical thinking is also evid ent in the self-help texts written for Christian Right women. On the surface, this shift appear s to point to a Christ ian withdrawal from fundamentalism based on a subjective reworking of the conservative notion of feminine submission. Griffith is heartened by what she sees as a potential for power reclamation: Â“the determination these women manifest in reworking their live s holds potential for more changes in the futureÂ” (213). Unfo rtunately, although these women have reframed submission for the sake of their internal selves, their external realities are virtually
123 unchanged by this negotiation. The ideologi cal reworking of the concept of submission is a Christian accommodation to postmodernism that may only succeed in a more firmly entrenched American fundamentalism.
124 The Power of Submission in The Passion of the Christ As the model for the Christian Right wo manÂ’s powerful submission, Jesus Christ embodies a set of complex, internalized contra dictions that have proven to be powerful rhetoric for those who feel oppressed. In a world filled with t hose who believe that power can only be manifested through fo rce, the message of Christ still proves revolutionary because it advocates the usur ping of power through a willful submission. JesusÂ’s power is located as much in his obedience and humility as it is in his kingly divinity. In Mel GibsonÂ’s The Passion of the Christ Jesus is represented as a feminized warrior, and his spiritual part ner, his mother, Mary, is por trayed as both the perfect woman-mother and a warrior in her own right. Much of The Passion Â’s exigence seeps forth from underneath; the subtexts provide a depth unavailable in the characterizations of the biblical figures or the narrative itself. Both Jesus and Mary implicitly contribute to the indoctrination of women into the subj ective trap of the Madonna/Whore paradigm, and the rest of the filmÂ’s Christian activist agenda, like that of LaHayeÂ’s Left Behind series, often feels insidiously promoted due to the filmÂ’s hybrid ization with secular genres. Because this hybridi zation relocates the viewerÂ’s focus from the filmÂ’s highly publicized message, it is arguabl e that both its proven commercial success and acclaimed spiritual triumphs can be attributed, at least in part, to the collage of borrowed material. The Passion of the Christ was arguably the most in fluential popul ar culture phenomenon of 2004. Breaking cinematic records on its opening day to become
125 AmericaÂ’s most popular film R-rated film in less than two months (Matthews 42), it was sensationalized in the media, and the fact th at two people died while watching the film in its first five monthsxiii only fueled the histrionics of many commentators. The filmÂ’s marketing was fantastically successful, in cluding, for example, a well-designed and interesting website that drew people in on a very personal leve l. But in addition to being marketed to the general public, the film was also marketed to the Christian community specifically, and that marketing was sheer genius Offering the film di rectly to churches as an opportunity to witness, the marketing campaign for The Passion allowed churches to pay a marketing liaison for short commercials that advertised the film but were customized for the individual church. The commercials could include, for example, details regarding that congregationÂ’s showtimes and/or a short statement from the pastor in support of the film. As discussion groups singlesÂ’s activities, and church-produced pamphlets about the movie sprung up around the country, another partnership with Outreach, Inc., North AmericaÂ’s biggest provid er of Christian witnessing products, began to bear fruit. Their bulk sale s (only to churches that agreed with their cr edo) of sundry Passion products, from Â“jumbo doorhangersÂ” to Â“personal impact cardsÂ” foreshadowed the filmÂ’s domination in Passion -related publishing areas and la ter, officially endorsed items, such as clothing, art, Bible coversxiv, and the usual kitschy jewelry, including even a pendant shaped to look like a nail. Considering The Passion Â’s marketing strategies is an important part of analyzing the film because it illuminates the capitalis t context from which the evangelical film cannot escape. Gibson himself acknowledged in countless interviews th at the purpose of the film was to evangelize, but commercial success becomes part of this spiritual
126 objective because it is an indicator of the di stribution of the filmÂ’s message. Considering capitalist versus spiritual objec tives, in turn, begins the process of teasing out the other contradictions inherent in GibsonÂ’s creat ion. For example, capitalism confronts the filmÂ’s evangelical purpose in its classifi cation as a religious meditation that is counterintuitively meant to entertain viewers while it simultaneously condemns and absolves them from sin. Furthermore, Gibson cl aims that the film is historically accurate, yet he freely incorporates occult images and ideas straight from several horror film genres. Even the two most obvious goals of the filmÂ—creating a religious community among the viewers and accommodating the cont emporary desire for entertainmentÂ—are at odds. One of the mysteries of the filmÂ’s success is that violence is the modus operandi through which it accomplishes both sp iritual and secular objectives. The film is an ideological pastiche of cultural elements that successfully persuades because it creates a communal iden tification in viewers. Audiences are visually coerced through a limite d point of view and violent images into a spectatorship that makes them a collective of individua l voyeurs. Although this individual yet collective spectatorship is part of any theater experience, The Passion focuses on spectatorship, capitalizing on this quality of movie-watching in order to further its spiritual objective of creating a religious community. The movieÂ’s power as religious iconography and propaganda is ev ident in the bloody spectacle ma de of the biblical text about the last days of the life of Jesus of Nazareth; simultaneously expected yet shocking, the portrayal of ChristÂ’s last days in The Passion elicits contradictory responses. Not only does the success of the film rea ssert Christianity as the popculture standard, but the standards of popculture Ch ristianity are reinsc ribed as contemporary
127 doxology. Gibson accomplishes this with a powerful marriage of violent images and liturgical elements. There are no surprises because everyone watching knows how the film will end, yet audience members gasp a nd cry, as though they are learning of the tortures suffered by Jesus for the first time. What is new and surprising is the supposed realism of the tortures of Jesu s, and the audienceÂ’s position in relation to these tortures. The Passion is a spectacle in the sense meant by Guy Debord, Marxist media writer and revolutionary filmmaker, when he names th e spectacle as not merely a Â“collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by imagesÂ” (139). The passive perspective, the only persp ective the film allows its audience in this harrowing experience, unites viewers into a community of helpless bystanders who are meant to identify with JesusÂ’s followers rather than Jesus himself. From the first scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, the community being created in the theater is meant to be a propagation of the passive, witnessing community within the story itself. Sarah Hagelin, a film studies scholar and author of Â“ The Passion of the Christ and the Lust for CertitudeÂ” discusses the formation of community by an alyzing the filmÂ’s version of morality: Â“An ethical premium is placed on staying and watc hing, on being able to stomach aggressive violence, the spectacle of which causes most of the disciples to abandon Jesus before twenty minutes is outÂ” (51). Moviegoers become extensions of the faithful disciples and the two Marys: Â“The film establishes multiple la yers of spectatorship, insisting that it is a very different thing for the disciples and Mary to watch Jesus suffer than it is for the Jewish crowd or Satan to watchÂ” (151). Although there are these different layers of spectatorship offered, GibsonÂ’s film implic itly asserts that Â“good people do not turn away. They watch Â” (Hagelin 152) with the two Marys and the few faithful disciples who
128 can bear it. Only the certain kind of watchi ng offered by JesusÂ’s followers is acceptable, indeed ultimately the only Christian action av ailable in the given circumstances. Only Christ is capable of the self less sacrifice viewers are witnessing, so they are asked to be grateful for his sacrifice by gi ving themselves over to a sacred voyeurism: Â“The spectacle presents itself as something enormously posi tive, indisputable, and inaccessible [. .]. The attitude which it demands in principle is passive acceptance which in fact it already obtained by its manner of appearing wit hout reply, by its monopoly of appearanceÂ” (Debord 141). Just as there are layers of spectatorsh ip in the film, there are levels of spectatorship in the filmÂ’s audience, and ma ny are intertwined. There are the different brands of Christians represented in every Passion audience, as well as curiosity-seekers and hardcore blood and gore fans, and the re actions of individuals in each of the countless communities aligns and realigns them w ith one another. It is likely that the film is meant to affirm those audience members who are already ensconced in the Christian ideology and persuade ot hers who are not to join it. Regardless of the spiritual choices made (or not made) by viewers, the si mple act of Â“staying and watching,Â” like the filmÂ’s disciples are told to do while Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, is a religious act that lends cred ence to the point of view espoused by the film. HagelinÂ’s assessment of this point of view further links Passion with politics and DebordÂ’s notion of spectacle, in which he asserts th at Â“the spectacle is the present model of socially dominant life. It is the omnipr esent affirmation of the choice already made in production and its corollary consumption. The spectacleÂ’s form and content are identically the total justification of the existing systemÂ’s conditions and goalsÂ” (140). Hagelin explains the
129 filmÂ’s vantage point through what she be lieves to be GibsonÂ’s political motiveÂ— establishing the Christian Ri ght fundamentalist view as the mainstream view: Gibson addresses an American Chris tian audience that is socially, economically, and culturally dominant but whose central religious text frames them as a minority. The film is an attempt to obscure this reality, to form ChristianityÂ’s primal scene in pain, not in power. [. .] To create a sense of persecution for wealthy, white Christians, Gibson uses intense screen violence to establish the Â“rea lityÂ” of JesusÂ’s gruesomely violent torture and to imagine this scene as ChristianityÂ’s central moment. This allows him to re-frame American cultureÂ’s increasing rejection of GibsonÂ’s cultural conservatism as a reje ction of Christianity [. .] and compel their consent to the political me ssage the film sells. The film turns a cultural history of domination into one of victimization and uses this revision to establish religious funda mentalism as the Â“real.Â” (153-4) How can a religious community be create d from strangers in a theatre? The communal experience of witnessi ng the torture of Jesus in su ch graphic detail coerces a revival in the heart of ever y Christian viewer, but it also pushes identification on other viewers, too. It is so real that it also appears to be true ; once a viewer internalizes one Â“truthÂ”Â—what they have Â“seen,Â”Â—the acceptance of other truths is often not far behind. To Hagelin, this is Â“the real problem with the pornographic level of violence in the film; its assault on the senses compels the audien ce to accept the spectacle as realityÂ” (155), which could lead viewers to accept the f ilmÂ’s worldview. The filmÂ’s overlapping accommodations to postmodernism and the cont emporary movie viewerÂ’s expectations
130 result in a pastiche film that manipulates audiences, Christian and non-Christian alike. By giving viewers what they expect of a Christ story (what Gibson calls Â“historical accuracyÂ”) in combination with the new simulacr a of special effects, the film creates new cogs for the machinery of the culture indus try. The culture industry is defined by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, social ph ilosophers and leaders of the illustrious Frankfurt School, as the metaphorical factor y that mass-produces the components of a standardized popular culture th at tranquilizes the masses. The Passion Â’s Accommodations to the Culture Industry Although Horkheimer and Adorno coined th e theoretical culture industry in 1948, it is increasingly relevant in th e study of contemporary Christia nity. Simply a slice of the broader culture industry, the Ch ristian culture industry wants to sell both its material and spiritual products, which in this case, are a film and a doctrine. GibsonÂ’s conservatism is tempered with a desire to maintain the re levancy of ChristÂ’s st ory for a contemporary audience; thus, as director, he makes accomm odations very similar to Tim LaHaye and the previously discussed Christ ian self-help authors. The mo vie can be interpreted as an infomercial marketing Christia nity through the imita tive plot of the crucifixion. Not only does the film imitate the Gospels through retelli ng a story that is an amalgamation of all of the apostlesÂ’s stories, but it also imita tes popular portrayals of Christ, mixing these familiar images with techniques borrowed from the genre of the graphically violent action film. The combination is irresistible to the contemporary audience, who loves a bloody spectacle, and both the popular images of Christ and the co mmercially necessary
131 gore are so entrenched in the minds of most viewers that few think to question JesusÂ’s appearance or the special e ffects used to alter it. Take, for example, the filmÂ’s first portrayal of Jesus in the garden where he asks God for guidance. His identity is obvious to most viewers from his physical attributes alone; they are a sign representing him: medium-brown, wavy, shoulder-length hair, a short beard, a thin face with a thin nose and prominent cheekbones, and large, kind, brown, doe-like eyes. David Morgan, a specialis t in the history of religious images and author of Â“Protestant Visual Practice and Mass Culture,Â” cl aims that this particular version of Jesus, which is the only versi on according to popular American Christian practice, originates from a contemporaryÂ’ s description of him supposedly found in a medieval manuscript. Once pictorial representations of Jesus were as commercially successful in the Protestant market as they had been in the Cathol ic market, lithographs modeled after this unverified description coul d be found in late nine teenth-century homes across the western world. Even more important from an ideological viewpoint is the fact that the physiognomy of Jesus is conflated with holy meaning: Â“His features are encoded with his character as a benevolent, solem n, tranquil saviourÂ” (Morgan 57); therefore, changing his appearance now that the domi nant portrayal of him is so widely disseminated and devoutly believed would cause ideological chaos. To portray him differently would feel like a betrayal of th e very characteristics that make his person sacred. The casting choice of Jim Caviezel connotes a decision to witness about Jesus using his most popular image. Gibson wants to create an a ffect of identification with mainstream Christian viewers, not alienate them by positing the ambiguity of verifiable
132 knowledge concerning JesusÂ’s features. Through his choices regarding JesusÂ’s traditional appearance, Gibson connects his viewers to one another by ideological chains forged from the visual signs of ChristÂ’s image as the martyred savior. It is important that his audience immediately recognize the Jesus on th e screen as their Jesus, our Jesus, everyoneÂ’s Jesus; in reality, each is most lik ely a carbon copy of th e Jesus manufactured by the culture industry, which according to Ho rkheimer and Adorno, accepts no deviation from the norm: Â“Every detail is so firmly stamped with sameness that nothing can appear which is not marked at birth, or does not m eet with approval at fi rst sightÂ” (76). The identification between the audience and Jesu s that results from his culture industry appearance paves the way for the more profound identification meant to result from the images of his flayed body. Just as the casti ng choice of Caviezel has little to do with historical accuracy, the visual text of JesusÂ’s torture and deat h is crafted to rhetorically foster identification with the audience rather than adhere to some so rt of truth. Because the claims to historical accuracy are a larg e part of the filmÂ’s marketing and because historical accuracy is, in f act, an impossibility, the identi fication that results from the appearance of Jesus before and after the violence is nothing short of a skillful manipulation of the viewer. Af ter so much Â“realism,Â” it may be difficult for viewers to consciously reject the filmÂ’s fundamentalist worldview, or ev en know that it affects their consciousness. Jesus as martyr is the crux of the ideo logy surrounding his worship; his sacrifice on the cross is the sign of all of the doctrinal codes of Christianity. The representation of his suffering in The Passion of the Christ tramples the boundaries between graphic violence and obscenity, and the special effects implemented are rhetorical techniques of
133 an extraordinary nature. Only the most dese nsitized viewers can a void recoiling in horror from the images on the screen, which are signal s that determine audience reactions (often knee-jerk reflexes). Just like amusements in the culture industry, the filmÂ’s content is not the cause of the effects wrought in the viewers; rather, it is just as Horkheimer and Adorno saidÂ—the violent acts are signals for determining feelings, not independent thought (82). Viewers must fill in the gaps between scenes and think through some of the details from other renderings of the story in order to make this film complete. JesusÂ’s trial, for example, is a longer scene, but one lacking in contextual details. It begins in media res and without prior knowledge of JesusÂ’s relationship with the spiritual elders who condemn him, it is unclear exactly w ho this group of powerful men are and why they are so angry and deceitful. Without this particular piece of knowledge, it is difficult for a viewer, who may or may not know that Jesus was sent to his death by his own people, to absorb the irony and poignancy of hi s betrayal. This is yet another symptom of the culture industryÂ’s workings in this scen ario: Â“The so-called dominant idea is like a file which ensures order but not coherenc eÂ” (Horkheimer 75). These missing pieces reveal that it is not the story that is the focus, but rather the longest and most detailed scene of allÂ—the scourging scene in which Je sus is revealed to be superhuman. The structural plot of the film is flimsy and serv es as a mere backdrop for the special effects that convey this violence, and it is the vi olence that clarifies the ideological shift implicitly predicted by Horkheimer and Adorno: The interest of innumerable consumer s is directed to the technique, and not to the contentsÂ—which are stubb ornly repeated, outworn, and by now half-discredited. The social power which the spectators worship shows
134 itself more effectively in the omnipr esence of the stereotype imposed by technical skill than in the stale ideologies for which the ephemeral contents stand in. (81) ChristÂ’s suffering exists for viewers on a new level of sens ory awareness, which changes the way that they think and feel about hi s personage; his mortality is pressed on the viewer each time the razored whips of th e Romans reveal the bones of his ribs. The Passion Â’s representation of the Christ st ory reveals the calculated morphing of Christianity into a contemporary ideology th at will continue to Â“sellÂ” to contemporary participants and attract new c onverts. Religions must perpet ually prove their relevancy in order to reproduce their own means of pr oductionÂ—their believersÂ—and Christianity joining forces with commercialism is not a new phenomenon; what is new is the Hollywood-action-flick methods by which The Passion of the Christ is made part of the consciousness of its Christian audience. As part of the culture industry, this kind of religious movement is almost omniscient in its gauging of public opinion and public desire: Â“The stronger the positions of the cu lture industry become, the more summarily it can deal with consumersÂ’ needs, producing them, controlling them, disciplining themÂ” (Horkheimer 86). It can certainly be said that the film fulfills a need consumers may have to reconcile their consum ptive desires with their religio us beliefs, for the film as product and spiritual text allo ws them to consume and worship simultaneously in ways that are strictly of the now. Another accommodation to postmodernism in the formation of Jesus results in a very successful evolutionary twist manifested in GibsonÂ’s film. This spiritual text relies on the surprising combination of the Â“traditiona lÂ” interpretation of popular ChristianityÂ’s
135 Jesus and the genre of the horror film. U tilizing elements from many sub-genres of horror, the filmÂ’s protagonist is portrayed against a pastiche of characters, settings, motifs, and special effects featured in all t ypes of scary films: ps ychological thrillers, supernatural possession films, and the sadis tic blood and gore shows. Jesus the activist martyr is the crux of the ideology surrounding hi s worship. His sacrifice on the cross is the sign of all doctrinal codes of Christianity. In orde r to guarantee its own perpetuation, this sign cannot become stagnant. The Passion is a product and a spiritual text that fulfills a consumer need to reconcile consumptive desires with religious beliefs. It also creates a community in which viewers can consume and worship in a way that is certainly contemporary. Audiences are reassured by the familiarity of the traditional images of Jesus and the filmÂ’s plot, which is an amalgamation of all of the Gospels. Then they are shocked by the violent images that propel most of the film. In fact, much of the movieÂ’s power emanates from its marriage of the liturgical element with the violen t image, and this is what most differentiates it from earlier por trayals of the Christ story. Gibson uses elements from psychological thrillers and de vil possession flicks for this film, but the most dominant horror genre represented is the sadistic blood and gore show made popular by films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre Special effects have come a long way since the seventies and in The Passion the lashes and nails and thorns are more Â“realÂ” than any earlier screen violence. Because of technological advances, ChristÂ’s suffering exists for viewers on a new level of sensory awareness that causes a transformative identification. People with disparate beliefs are bound together by a coll ective recoiling from the torture inflicted on
136 an innocent man and a profound wish that it end. It is possibl e that identification with the protagonist or the newfound membership in th e theater community softens the hearts of potential converts. Because contemporary Amer ican culture is so re verent of martyrdom and yet simultaneously so self -indulgent, the filmÂ’s representation of the worldÂ’s most famous self sacrifice in such a graphic style was bound to wield money-making power. It would indeed be a triu mph for Christianity if The Passion Â’s spiritual success could be correlated to the publicÂ’s re sponse at the box office. The Passion and the Madonna Paradigm: Martyrdom, the Ultimate Submission The mixing of the secular and the spiritual does not make The Passion of the Christ revolutionary, and its representation of the feminine is not new, either. Not surprisingly, The Passion Â’s portrayal of feminine s ubjectivity is disappointingly hegemonic, and its contribution to the subj ectivity construction of the Christian Right woman perpetuates the Madonna paradigm in its conservative (yet incoherent) characterization of ChristÂ’s mother. In or der to fully understand th e filmÂ’s perpetuation of the Madonna paradigm, it is necessary to loca te its portrayal of the feminine within the context of the filmÂ’s upperm ost prioritiesÂ—creating a re ligious community among the individuals in the audience while at th e same time accommodating the contemporary desire for extreme forms of entertainment. The focus of community and violence as entertainment in The Passion serves as a foundation for what is the most effective st rategy for the indoct rination of the Madonna paradigm. The film serves as yet another es sentialized element that contributes to the formation of subjectivity. Because American Christianity is inescapably articulated with
137 capitalism and the culture industry, the film pervasively and reductively positions women in hyper-conservative portrayals that perp etuate the Madonna paradigm and trap women viewers in schizophrenic circles of anci ent gender ideals and contemporary gender requirements. Jesus: A Feminized Martyr-Warrior and a Model for Christian Right Women As discussed in Chapters One and Two, the realization of the feminine Christian ideal can only be achieved through the Ma donna paradigm. The Madonna paradigm culminates in the ultimate submissionÂ—sacrific ial martyrdomÂ—and this is the aspect of the paradigm that is most illuminated by The Passion of the Christ Although Jesus is explicitly represented as a masculine warri or figure, his character and the context surrounding his strength in martyrdom is some what feminized. For example, Jesus is attractive, and his body is the focus of the film in a way that can be likened to the sexualization and objectification of the fema le body in cinema. Muscular and welldefined but slim, his body is far from any charac terization of burly. JesusÂ’s appearance is not stereotypically masculine, and his mortality is forecast on the fragility of his flesh. Furthermore, his is a persona of nurturance rather than physical prowess; because his strength is in his submission and sacrifice, he is more connected to the feminine ideal of compassionate giving than the stereotypically masculine ideals of aggressive domination. ChristÂ’s stereotypically feminine qualities are certainly downplaye d, but they cannot be avoided entirely because the doctrine of Chris tianity espouses these id eals. Perhaps this unavoidable leaning toward the traditional femi nine in Christianity explains why Christ has been appropriated by Christian Right women as a model for their postmodern
138 accommodations to the idea of a powerful submission. Regardless whether or not GibsonÂ’s intention was to further mobilize the effects of powerfu l submission in the subjectivity construction of Christian Right women, the notion has been successfully furthered by his interpretation of the crucifixi on narrative. Perhaps because it is the gruesome real ity of physical martyrdom by crucifixion that is paramount in The Passion all of the filmÂ’s characters are developed superficially without granting any omniscience to the view ing audience. Full of powerful emotions, the film coerces feelings out of the audien ce without revealing what is happening within the charactersÂ’s minds. The primary focus of the film, JesusÂ’s physical body, or the destruction of his exterior, overshadows any gl impse into his interior self that viewers might think they are getting: Â“The film does not ask us to put ourselves in the position of the suffering protagonist and is in fact curiously uninterested in his interior self or in the question of our ability to ev er know himÂ” (Hagelin 161). Refusing viewers access into the interior of Jesus does not promote the idea that he is merely superficial, but th at his interior is in fact, inacc essible. This inaccessibility underscores the traditional masculinity of Je sus; indeed, one cannot help but compare Jesus to some sort of action he ro, especially in the scourging scene when he stands up for punishment far more times than is humanly po ssible when the bones of his very ribs are protruding from the covering of his skin. This ideological plug for manliness can be seen as yet another accommodation to the contem porary cinema audience, who regardless of their level of spiritual commitment, Â“are traine d to read violence not in a religious context but in an action-hero, injury-and-revenge cont extÂ” (Hagelin 159) and will respond to a manÂ’s man with admiration and even an impulse to emulate him.
139 The film begins and ends with portrayals of Jesus as a warrior-action-hero. In the filmÂ’s beginning, he stomps to death the snak e that has just been born of Satan in the Garden of Gethsemane. According to Hageli n, Â“Gibson wants it clearÂ—this is Jesus as a hero and a warrior, his emotional turmoil overcome with actionÂ” (152). Similarly, JesusÂ’s divine strength is referenced in the punishment of Gesmas, the thief who was crucified with Jesus and refused to accept him as the Son of God; his eyes were pecked out by crows. Hagelin points th at the filmÂ’s last scene is a reference to the resurrection of the warrior-king: The camera shows the stone rolling away fr om the tomb [. . Jesus] is shot in profile, his face unreadable, as the martial music rises. This is Jesus girding for battle; the camera focuse s on the hole in his handÂ—Â‘proof.Â’ We have seen what happened to Gesm as [the bad thief whose eyes were pecked out by crows on Golgotha] afte r denying Jesus. Can the crusades be far behind? (162). However, as with all of the aforementi oned Christian Right works, there is a postmodern subtext of gender complications th at defies the Christ ian culture industryÂ’s claim to gender absolutes. This subtext is so prevalent that its defiant stance against gender absolutes can arguably be said to ha ve already been absorbed into the culture industry itself as the emerge nt cultural dominant. The mo re obvious perpetuation of gender absolutes through JesusÂ’s warrior-li ke masculinity is contradicted by an alternative self that is somewhat feminize d. To begin with, Jesus participates as a subordinate in a relationship of powerful submission with his heavenly father and is thus linked to the Christian Right women who are attempting to reframe their submission to
140 earthly husbands as a powerful submission to the same divine being. This connection is only strengthened by the narrative of the movie, which is about Jesus and the women who love him. Women are primarily recognized by the Je sus of the film. The disciples are secondary and always disappoint, while JesusÂ’s earthly father, Joseph, is an absent figure to whom there is not even one allusion. A lthough Jesus definitely has a relationship with his heavenly father, it is a relationship that is based on obedience. He prays and asks for answers and forgiveness for others, but it is his mother who is his main source of encouragement and fortitude during the part of his life portrayed in the film, which represents the mother/son relationship as one that eclipses even the relationship between the heavenly father and Jesus, the son of G od, the son of man. Jesu sÂ’s relationship with his mother is based on an extrasensory co mmunication that transcends the boundaries of earthly existence. They communicate throughou t the movie without having to use words, and when they do actually speak to one anot her, it is a pivotal communication in the overall theme of the narrative. For exampl e, two scenes simultaneously occurring in present-time and in flashback during JesusÂ’s walk to Golgotha en capsulate both MaryÂ’s characterization as the Divine Mother and Jesu sÂ’s characterization as the Divine Savior. When Jesus falls while carrying the cross, Ma ry runs to him, reassuring him with the words, Â“I am here.Â” As she runs to him through the crowd, a simultaneous flashback occurs in which she reassures the child, Jesus, with the same words after she picks him up from a fall. His response, Â“See, Mother, I ma ke all things new,Â” is multi-layered and has intense meaning for the moment encapsulated while he lies on the ground, as well as for the wider theme of redemption through his sacrif ice. In short, the meaning viewers make
141 from the moments of the movie depend more on this mother/son inte raction than on any other pairing, and this is one way that Jesus is linked with the feminine. JesusÂ’s link to femininity does not stop with his relationship with his mother, Mary. He has stereotypically feminine traits, as wellxv. In several scenes, Jesus displays empathy and compassion in ways that were revolutionary in a culture that privileged more masculinized, bellicose Â“eye-for-an-eyeÂ” mentalities. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he advocates passivity when he chastises Peter for his violent acts against the soldiers who have come to arrest him a nd compassionately heals the soldierÂ’s ear that Peter lopped off in anger. Later, there is a flashback scene in which he is shown saving Mary MagdaleneÂ’s life, gently raising her fr om the dirt both figur atively and literally, recognizing her value as a person rather than judging her by social standards. Indeed, JesusÂ’s behavior throughout the whole process of his trial, sentencing, and crucifixion is pointedly passive, and he makes several referenc es to his power as he advocates passivity rather than the traditiona l swashbuckling, warlord-like be havior the watching crowds would expect from someone who calls himsel f a king. Most importa ntly, Jesus begs his heavenly father to forgive those who are torturing and later murder him, expressing compassion for even his enemies in their brutal ignorance. However, the film concentrates on the surface of Jesus, rather than his teachings, as Freeland points out: Â“ItÂ’s hard to judge [. .] wh ether any particular view of Ch ristian ethics is advocated by The Passion of the Christ since the scope of the film is deliberately narrow. We see little of JesusÂ’s active ministryÂ” (157). Viewers mu st rely on previously gained knowledge to fill in the narrative holes left by the film, such as the information that Jesus saves a prostitute when he rescues Mary Magdale ne. This reliance on viewersÂ’s childhood
142 Sunday School lessons may weaken JesusÂ’s links to the feminine somewhat, but no more than the filmÂ’s reliance on visual images rath er than on scripture to establish Jesus as a warrior weaken that attemp t at characterization. Another interesting point made by Cynthia Freeland, chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Houston, links Jesus to the feminine through his voluntary blood sacrifice. She points out th at copious bloodshed like that found in the film Â“evoke associations between women and the flowing blood of menstruation and childbirthÂ” (160), further noting that the film Â’s portrayal of Mary the mother and Mary Magdalene shows them very comfortable with being stained with JesusÂ’s blood, although they are devastated that it is being shed. According to FreelandÂ’s hi storical assessment of biblical times, women would have been responsible for the ca re of the sick and dying and the preparation of the dead for burial, and because of this Â“show an ability and a willingness to address life as it is lived [. .] [and] cope practically and lovingly with the messy details of embodied human existence.Â” Freeland goes on to explain the symbolic associations between JesusÂ’s blood and mothe rÂ’s milk in the Christian sacrament of communion, which is said to nourish the s oul with his blood in different artistic traditions. For example, Mexican retablo paintings show angels gathering JesusÂ’s blood for believers to drink, and mediev al art associates Jesus with pelicans, which were said to provide their own blood to nourish their young. Over the centuries, ChristÂ’s wounds have even been compared to small wombs in which mystics say they are absorbed and sheltered (160) Although these traditions are not part of the filmÂ’s explicit text, they are certainly invited to participate in the filmÂ’s subtext by the extremity of GibsonÂ’s artistic choices of blood and gore. They participate in the historical creati on of Christ as an
143 intertextual fabric woven by different con ceptions of his body and how it functions as a meaning-making ideological tool. Mary, the Ultimate Mother (patterned after a man) In The Passion Jesus has two portrayalsÂ—the explicit warrior and the implicit nurturerÂ—that are opposi tionally gendered male and female. These two portrayals play off of one another in a way that encourag es a contradictory reading perfect for the Christian Right culture industryÂ’s acco mmodation to postmodernismÂ—the powerful submission. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is al so represented as being an amalgamation of the feminine and masculine genders, and she is paired with Jesus throughout the film. Although the literal martyr in th is Christian Right ac tivist text is Jesus of Nazareth, Mary is represented as co-experienc ing his death and the death of herself as a subject. She, too, is portrayed as wholeheartedly submitting to the will of God, even though it means the slow and tortured death of her child. Femini ne martyrdom is the most important piece of the Madonna paradigm, and in this film, the u ltimate feminine martyr, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is represented in what is argua bly a more powerful submission than Christ himself. She is represented as his mirror im age because she is explicitly portrayed as a nurturer first and a warrior second, while Jesus is the reverse. Her attitude is the epitome of powerful submission and meshes perfectly with the ideas of the Christian culture industry found in other popular texts that help fashion th e temporally schizophrenic subjectivity of the Christian Right woman. Sh e is reproduced in a less glorified fashion throughout the film in almost every other fema le character, and the filmÂ’s depiction of
144 women offers little choice other than the pa rticular subjectivity offered to them through MaryÂ’s maternal martyrdom. The mythical feminine ideal of the Madonna paradigm is embodied in the mother of Christ, and the filmÂ’s repr esentation of her can be no more Â“historically accurateÂ” than the paradigm itself because each is a portray al of the other. Whether or not Gibson chooses to recognize its influe nce, the culture industryÂ’s notion of maternal perfection influences his interpretation of Mary as much as any biblical or histor ical text. Not at all the simple and natural role it is portrayed to be, the Ma donna paradigm is, in fact, a complicated and elusive feminine identity that ca n only be achieved in artistic endeavors. Whereas living women certainly embody contradi ctions, the particular combination of oxymoronic qualities that make up the mother of ChristÂ—child-mother, goddess-mortal, powerful-supplicantÂ—are without the taint of humanity or si n. Because Mary, like her son, is above reproach, she occupies a myth ical space mortal women can only struggle toward rather than hope to reach. MaryÂ’s perfection, inside and out, is what makes her figure a model of unattainable stature. Most obviously, the cult ural requirement that good be beautiful is realized in the casting choice of Maia Mo rgenstern, whose strongly featured face, tortured eyes, and perfect teeth create a phys iognomy that reveals her assumed character as Mary the Mother, just as th e culture industryÂ’s Christ has features that are Â“encodedÂ” with meaning. However, her beauty is of a certain type that separates her physical features from those of the Mary Magdalene character, who is played by Monica Belluci. Mary the MotherÂ’s face is mature and full of strength and not so finely featured and childlike as Mary MagdaleneÂ’s. Although Mary the MotherÂ’s face is incredibly
145 expressive, it is as controlled as her emotions, and often even more expressive as a result. A single tear on MaryÂ’s cheek has more of an effect than hysteria would; emotional understatement portrays part of her warrior side. It is one way she fights for her son. In short, Mary the MotherÂ’s f eatures are not of the type that Hollywood standards would associate with sexualized physical perfection bu t rather a more mature and wise type of beauty more appropriate for the ultimate vi rgin mother, who should not be associated with sex at all. MaryÂ’s Co-Martyrdom In GibsonÂ’s film, however, although Mary ce rtainly is not sexua lized, she is often more like a wife to Jesus than a mother. She fills the role of supportive helpmate throughout the narrative in a manner similar to ClaudiaÂ’s relationship to Pilate. When considering the contradictor y ideals of the Madonna paradi gm, this mother/partner relationship is not surprising, but it does ma ke for confusing material in regards to subjectivity formation. Because the mother a nd son are partners in their martyrdom, but Mary is the subordinate partner, consumers of the film are faced with the subjective negotiation found in all of the Christian Right texts discusse d hereÂ—a powerful submission disguised as a traditional subm ission. Some critics argue, and with good reason, that Mary is Â“one-dimensional, just as shown in tradition and many paintings. She is simply and naturally a mother: stereotypically selfless, patient, beautiful, and lovingÂ” (Freeland 156). Although this interpretation is not fa lse, it does not take into account the postmodern twist of the power ful submission or the undercurrent of partnership in the relationship Mary has with her son. Even when this undercurrent is
146 recognized, as it is in FreelandÂ’s workÂ—Â“in so me interactions the mother and son appear almost like loversÂ” (156)Â—the critical inte rpretation does not attempt to complicate the flat Madonna portrayal the film offers viewers. A deviation from an oversimplified Madonna theme that supports the argument of Mary as a partner to Jesus can be found in Bruce R. ReichenbachÂ’s Â“Dances of Death: Self-Sacrifice and Atonement.Â” Reichenb ach, a contemporary Christian philosopher, finds the interaction between mother and son in the film is like a pas de deux in which Mary, acting as JesusÂ’s partner, experiences his suffering as her own, mirrors his agony, and becomes a Â“co-redemptrixÂ” (198-200). Like Christ, who chooses to submit to the will of God and offer his very life for the re demption of humanity, Mary chooses to allow it to happen. Her brand of spectatorship embodies her passivity and submission because she chooses to watch without interfering in he r sonÂ’s torture and even tual death; rather, she does what she can to support Jesus in his choice to submit to the will of God and the process of crucifixion. She exhibits a supe rhuman warriorÂ’s strength and fortitude in accomplishing this task. Often in complete di sregard for her own safety, she puts herself in harmÂ’s way and bravely defies the Roman sold iers in order to offe r herself to Christ. Without speaking directly to the issue of power, Reichenbach, too, claims power for Mary, saying: Â“the self-sacrific e of Jesus has been transmuted into the sacrifice of Mary in giving up the one she loves. Although Mary cannot understa nd the events [. .], she engages in self-sacrifice, even to the point of being willing to die with him. Gibson views Mary as part of the sa lvation process when she sacrif ices to torture and death the son she voluntarily boreÂ” (200). It is in this way that her powerful submission is so
147 closely linked to ChristÂ’s and arguably, as a survivor of her so nÂ’s crucifixion, her powerful submission may be the more impressive example of obedience. MaryÂ’s Reproductions in Other Female Characters Reproduced to some degree in most of the other female characters, Mary, the mother of Christ, serves as a model for all other women in the film and by extension, all other women. The generalized Madonna of the paradigm is most often dichotomously paired with the Whore, who lacks the lumi nescence of motherhood or the innocence of the virgin. No exception to this pattern, The Passion Â’s Mary is actually paired with two Whores: Mary Magdalene, the reformed Whore, and Satan, who is somewhat androgynous but arguably more female than male and actually played by a woman. Although Mary Magdalene is certainly a more direct reproduction of Mary, mother of Christ, she cannot help but fall short of th e Madonna paradigmÂ’s stringent requirements for the ideal woman. Satan, on the other hand, is in a more reverse modeling relationship with the character of Mary, but this connects her, nonetheless, to the feminine source. Claudia, PilateÂ’s wife, and Veronica, th e woman who brings Jesus water during his tortuous journey to Golgotha, are also linked w ith Mary the Mother in their portrayals as similarly gendered, nurturing caretakers meant to be exemplars of femininity. Just like the other Christian Right texts discussed, The Passion offers viewers only two feminine types. Because the Christian RightÂ’s discour se is so often funda mentalist, it is not surprising that there exists a powerful subtex t in this discourse a nd in societyÂ’s wider gender discourse, that represents femininity as an either/or proposition. Either a woman
148 chooses to aspire to be the Madonna and sacrif ice herself, or she chooses to be the Whore who sacrifices her soul. Mary Magdalene, the Reformed Whore The Passion does provide a middle ground between the Madonna and the Whore. This less-than-sacred middle ground of femininity is The Passion Â’s representation of Mary Magdalene. Gibson accommodates his Mary Magdalene character to viewer expectations just like he r ecreated the popular Jesus exactly according to the image most often featured in contemporary representati ons. Like JesusÂ’s phys ical appearance, the Mary Magdalene character is represented in a popular version of a hi storical and biblical figure that is an amalgamation of severa l women, at least acco rding to Freeland. Freeland claims that the popular version of Mary Magdalene the reformed Whore has no biblical basis but is a confluence of a biblical figure from whom Jesus exorcised demons, a few other biblical Marys, and a Â“fallen wo manÂ” without a name (157-8). Furthermore, Freeland asserts that the choice of Monica Bell uci for the role of Mary Magdalene rests on an artistic perpetuation of the Madonna/Who re paradigm because Belluci is a wellknown sex symbol eroticized in other films, such as The Matrix sequels and Malna (153-4). Referring to the mythi cal and artistic tradition th at revolves around a sexualized although reformed Mary Magdalene with flowi ng tresses, Freeland also points out that BelluciÂ’s hair is shown loose and flowing wit hout any sort of covering much of the time, in contrast to MorgensternÂ’s, whose ha ir is usually hidden from view (158). The Passion Â’s representation of Mary Magdalene is interesting precisely because of its portrayal of her as a woman who reside s in the space of the less-than-sacred middle
149 ground between the paradigms of the Madonna a nd the Whore. Although she is a faithful follower of Jesus and a highly respected figure within the ideology of Christianity, Mary Magdalene is reproduced here in the new form of a Madonna who is simultaneously linked to her older Whore identity. Regardless of ChristianityÂ’s assurance of forgiveness and absolution, in the film, Mary Magdalene is not allowed to escape her past. There is even a flashback scene of Jesus saving her from death by stoning to remind viewers that she was a pariah of the worst sort. Along w ith other allusions to her sexuality, these artistic choices make viewers remember, not forget, Mary MagdaleneÂ’s original position so as to further sacralize the true MadonnaÂ’s absolute purity. For women viewers, the ch aracter of Mary Magdalen e implies that even though Whores can be forgiven, they are always Whores even after their redemption, perhaps especially so because it is onl y their attempt to be someone else that illuminates their previous identity so starkly. Mary Magda lene is a warning of the permanence of feminine identity choices, rather than an example of the unconditional love of God and the subjective mutability offered by salvati on. The film finds a space for resistance within the Christian doctrine of divine forg iveness and chooses to capitalize on a position in which absolutes of gender identity are more powerful than that which was revolutionary about JesusÂ’s te achings; the film does not focus on the central idea of a reformed ChristianÂ’s clean slate, and it al so ignores JesusÂ’s propensity to encourage women to claim a higher positi on in Christian society. Mary MagdaleneÂ’s most biblically powerful moment is even absent from the film. Although, according to the Bible, she is th e first of JesusÂ’s followers to find him resurrected in his tomb, the film shows the re surrection without includi ng her at all. She
150 is denied her role of disseminator of th e Â“good newsÂ” and is instead merely the other MaryÂ’s shadow and a supporter of Christ. In The Passion Mary MagdaleneÂ’s martyrdom as a woman follower of Christ is merely a sh adow of the martyrdom of Mary the Mother. Mary Magdalene is perhaps most mart yred by her unholy middle ground position as a reformed whore because this role offers only a splintered subjectivity that invites judgment rather than the power of self-definition. Yet anothe r example of the complexity of a Christian Right textÂ’s perpetuation of the Madonna paradigm, the filmÂ’s portrayal of Mary Magdalene is rich with contradicti ons that only contribute to the fractured subjectivity offered to Christian Right wome n through the popular Christian texts they consume. Satan, the Androgynous Whore Played by Rosalinda Celentano, Satan is apparently androgynous but easily linked to femininity and Mary the mother of Christ. Mary is the character in the film who is most empathetic to the suffering of Christ be cause she is his mother and chooses to suffer with him throughout the entirety of his tortures Mary does not choose to separate herself from his pain, and this decision is what make s her ChristÂ’s co-martyr. Satan also makes the same choice but for markedly different r easons. Although Satan is not removed from ChristÂ’s pain and chooses to watch with rapt a ttention, s/he is an anti-martyr. Rather than empathy, Satan watches the suffering of Chri st with a detached objectivity that is, because of its disturbing difference, automati cally separate from the narrativeÂ’s action. Cinematically, SatanÂ’s voyeurism is separa ted from the spectatorship of the other characters by a slow-motion camera and dirg e-like music. S/he establishes her anti-
151 martyrdom by openly stating he r/his detached interest in the beginning scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, when s/he asks whether or not one mortal man is capable of shouldering the sins of the world, establishi ng herself/himself as a different type of passive spectator from Chri stÂ’s supportersÂ—an almost philosophical observer. Furthermore, in contrast to Mary, Satan is imagistically linked with all of the supernatural evil that can be mustered from ev ery artistic and cinematic source available. Mary, like every positively portrayed figure in the film, is beautiful, whereas Satan is appropriately ghoulishÂ—pale, bald, and w ith claws for hands. Although SatanÂ’s costuming is not that different from Mary Â’s, the ReaperÂ’s hood and the Nun-like head covering easily portray the diffe rence between the two character s. Satan, too, is linked to femininity through motherhood, although it is a he llish maternity. S/he figuratively gives birth to maggots and snakes, which crawl fr om her facial orifices and from under her robes. At one point, s/he is even shown cradling a half-rotten demon-baby who watches ChristÂ’s torture with her. The filmÂ’s fundamental bent makes it impo ssible for Satan as female to be any kind of woman other than a whore, although a ll women must be connected to the ultimate woman, Mary, the mother of Christ. In te rms of subjectivity c onstruction, Satan is a more extreme extension of the warning encap sulated in the figure of Mary Magdalene. According to the mores of the film, Mary Magdalene cannot escape her Whore past, and although she is forgiven, she is s till linked to lusty evil. Satan represents such evil in its most extreme form. Her/his visual repulsive ness and status as a de tached observer only serve to link her/him with the Madonna in direct opposition to purity, goodness, and the self-sacrifice of maternal martyrdom.
152 Secondary Mary Reproductions: Claudia and Veronica Claudia, PilateÂ’s wife, and Veronica, the woman who brings Jesus water on his way to Golgotha, are also connected to th e ultimate femininity, although both of their characters are without historical or biblical basis (Freeland 152). ClaudiaÂ’s portrayal is especially mystifying, as is her husbandÂ’s, becau se they are the representatives of a brutal occupying force that fiercely oppresses the Jews yet noble characterist ics are chosen for each of them. Claudia is directly linked to Mary, the mother of Christ, from her first appearance, because both have some sort of clairvoyant dream on the night of JesusÂ’s capture. She is further linked to the intu itive Mary because she prophesies that her husbandÂ’s actions toward Jesus wi ll bring Pilate political tro uble, and she also claims to be able to differentiate truth from falsehood whenever she hear s it. Like Mary to Jesus, Claudia is the perfect helpmate to Pilate She is encouraging, loving, and supportive, even when she disagrees with or does not understand his choices. Cinematically, this link between the ultimate Madonna and her Roma n counterpart is established most often through meaningful eye contact; MaryÂ’s soulfu l looks are exchanged with her son, and a less intense version of this kind of emotional exchange o ccurs between Claudia and her husband. Most interestingly, after JesusÂ’s scour ging, Claudia mysterious ly believes in his divinity and understands MaryÂ’s desire to clean her sonÂ’s sacred blood from the flagstones. In what would have had to be a major breach of conduct, Claudia silently and sympathetically brings snowy cloths to Mary so that she may mop up the copious blood shed by Jesus during his flaying by the Roman guards. Veronica, too, displays the empathy that is paramount in the idealized woman and part of the essentialized trad emark of the Â“goodÂ” women in The Passion Although she,
153 like Claudia, is an example of the loosene ss with which the film presents Â“historical accuracy,Â” she further buttresses the Madonna/Whore paradigm by continuing the perpetuation of the construction and recons truction of Mary th roughout the collective femininity found in the film. It is important to note, as well, that in the few minutes she is on screen, Veronica is also portrayed as a compassionate mother comforting a daughter who watches her risk herself to provide Jesus some comfort. In this way, the multigenerational perspective of feminine subjec tivity construction is established, and the inherited gender paradigms are reassert ed within the context of the film. Community and Entertainment: Beyond the Madonna Paradigm The perpetuation of the Madonna paradigm and its components of submission and martyrdom are most effectively furthered in The Passion of the Christ because the filmÂ’s goals of creating a religious community and entertaining a contemporary film audience are united under the cinematic technique of por nographic violence. Without this level of pornographic violence, the extremity of Christ Â’s martyrdom and his motherÂ’s martyrdom would not be so successfully forced on the viewer. GibsonÂ’s artistic choices have particular effects on all audience member s, but the community of viewers most susceptible to influence from this confluen ce of seemingly disparate categories is women, and most especially Christ ian Right women. Ch ristian Right women are negotiating a virulently extreme form of JamesonÂ’s sc hizophrenic subjectiv ity construction, both societally-imposed and self-imposed, that all American women are negotiating. The manner in which Christ and Mary exhib it the notions of ma rtyrdom and powerful submission, in combination with the filmÂ’s perpetuation of GibsonÂ’s fundamentalist ideas
154 about good and evil, contribute to the indoctrinative ideology that potentially imprisons these women. The absolute separation of good and evil clea rly mark the film as fundamentalist. Previously mentioned is GibsonÂ’s tendency to ward what Hagelin calls Â“visual excessÂ” (151) to accomplish the objective of obvious ly marking good and evil for the viewer. Maggots crawling from SatanÂ’s nose, ugly Jewish hags, point y-toothed demonic Jewish children, crooked and rotten te eth, rotten camels, and hungry, eye-pecking crows are just a few examples of ways that the film reve als who belongs to the evil community. And no one is exempt from being classified; as me ntioned earlier, another way both spectators within the film and within the filmÂ’s audience are classi fied as good or evil depends on whether or not they follow JesusÂ’s command in the beginning of the film to Â“stay and watch.Â” These examples of essentialism cannot he lp but have negative effects on the subjectivity construction of the Christian Righ t woman viewer. Not only is she expected to continually strive toward the spirit ual and emotional perf ection of the Madonna paradigmÂ—she also receives a similar message from yet another Chri stian source that her goodness is in direct proportion to her attractiveness. In The Passion this is even more vehemently stated than it is in either Left Behind or any of the discussed self-help texts because the images that separate good from evil are so graphically abhorrent or aweinspiring that once again the middle ground is obliterated, leaving no room for the average. Dictating the morality of viewers by judging their ab ility to stay and watch is yet another way that The Passion more easily traps Christia n Right women than other spectator groups because these women have a speci al relationship with Jesus, at least if
155 they participate in th e contemporary Christian culture i ndustry. He is ultimately their model for the perpetuation of the Madonna pa radigm and the subjec tive negotiation that makes it possible for them to reconcile the temporal schizophrenia of postmodernism and biblical obedienceÂ—the idea of powerful s ubmission. This identification with Jesus negates some of the filmÂ’s efforts to force an identification with the two Marys and the disciples as passive spectators and makes it even more unlikely that JesusÂ’s feminine emulators would be able to look away; they are spiritual and emotional extensions of Jesus. The filmÂ’s fundamentalist separa tion of good and evil has definite negative potential for the subjectivity constructi on of Christian Right women, but like any essentialism, its dichotomizing of good and evil is easy to problematize, too. Although the film separates good and evil using seemi ngly impermeable boundaries, there are holes in the filmÂ’s fundamentalist do ctrine that are clearest in light of some of GibsonÂ’s interpretive choices. Surprisingly, Gibson lumps his Christian viewers who stay and watch and suffer with Jesus with the evil torturers; he enc ourages everyone to align themselves with the evil forces that carried out the crucifixion. Pamela Grace, who teaches film at the City University of New York, explains: The filmÂ’s demand that we blame ourselves for ChristÂ’s death has been endlessly reinforced by the surrounding publicity. It is one of the most unusual aspects of The Passion and, odd as it seems, is probably one of the reasons for the pictureÂ’s unexpected popularity. Viewer responses to the film focus largely on the experience of seeing Â“what Jesus suffered for me.Â”
156 According to this view, every sinner is retroactiv ely causing the situation that creates a need for Jesus to sacrifice himself on the cros s to save humanity as a whole. Therefore, regardless of the time period in which one sins, that individual contri butes to the sinful burden of guilt that descended on JesusÂ’s shoul ders when his heavenly father could not bear to look at him and turned away when Jesus was dying on the cross, prompting Jesus to cry out, Â“My father, why hast thou fors aken me?Â” Gibson makes a personal testimony to this point of view by feat uring his own hand holding one of the nails as it is hammered through JesusÂ’s hand and in to the cross (Grace). Even though such signs as poor dental hygi ene and poorly formed facial features may be overly simplistic ways to mark evil, such marking is done for cinematic effect. Despite such surface marking, the film asserts th at the evil is amongst us, within us all, and inescapably so. We all participate t oday in a horrific event that occurred two thousand years ago, and the nuances of this assertion are cloaked in an ideological fundamentalism that negates the very possibili ty of itself. For example, viewers are encouraged to hate those responsible for JesusÂ’s death but simultaneously admit their own culpability in his demise. Rather than de al with contradictions like this, the film distracts viewers from it in order that it si nks deep into the subconscious without much recognition or analysis; this makes room for the powerful combination of religious ceremony and violent orgy that Grace calls Â“ritu aloid entertainment.Â” In this case, the ritualoid entertainment connects with viewer penance on several different levels. Foucault has pointed out that most pe ople crave discipline and punishment and will even internalize punitive forces to satisfy their craving. Even so, many contemporary theologians reject the idea of atonement for various reasonsÂ—historical,
157 biblical, and social (Grace). Because soci ety creates this need within individuals, it makes sense that certain religious views will encourage these self-punitive behaviors in a religious environment in which church instit utions are no longer al lowed the freedom to be regulators of law and morality to the extent of times past. The Passion Â’s violent centerpiece, the scourging scene, encourages intense guilt in vi ewers and removes the more popular Christian focus of love from th e narrative: Â“Gibson prefers the whip to the cross [. .] because death is a mystery and pain is not. Gibson wants his Christianity literal and the wages of sin visibleÂ” (Hagelin 155). GibsonÂ’s focus on ChristÂ’s torture advocates an absolutist view of Christianity that encourages a particularly brutal form of self-flagellation that has as one level the me re act of watching the film, which is its own kind of torture. A viewer who leaves the theater making a choice to be further affected by the movie even after the credits ro ll has to navigate yet another form of atonement more akin to an internal self-flagellationÂ—the process of self-blame and its ensuing subjective effects. A possible subconscious process ma y go something like this: Â“If Christ was perfect and still had to suffer crucifixion for me, as a daily sinner, what must I deserve? How can I possibly repay him this debt?Â” Wo men are especially vulne rable to this type of thinking simply because they are culturally pressured to accept mo re than their share of the responsibility for the work and wr ongs of the world. Christian Right women, especially, seem to wholehear tedly accept this burden. The result of conservative religious traditions that target women, such as the much-touted scriptural references to childbirth pain being payment for the sins of Eve, have paved the way for further subjectivity construction that encourages Christian women to see themselves as
158 responsible for not only ChristÂ’s crucifix ion, but MaryÂ’s pain, as well. Because The Passion is about the agony of Mary the mother in addition to the agony of Jesus, it stands to reason that Christian Right women watchi ng the movie would feel an affinity for Mary; their own identiti es, whether or not they are actual ly mothers, is so tied into the biological essentialism of motherhood that they inevitably empathize with Mary and perhaps feel responsibility for her pain. A ccepting this responsibility without questioning its fairness is one way Christia n Right women could justify th e contradictory positions in which they find themselves within the societ y of their faith and wider society as they discover imaginative ways to accept th eir Â“placeÂ” in both worlds. Christian Right women viewers of The Passion form their own spectator community within the audiences in the cine ma and elsewhere, but around which of the filmÂ’s ideological centerpieces do they gather? The filmÂ’s message of sacrifice expressed through pornographic violence leaves them shak en yet resolved to increase their own willingness for self-punishment through sacrific e and martyrdom; they will find solace in creating a community to suppor t them in this endeavor. The cinematic techniques employed by Gibson lend a realism to the f ilmÂ’s narrative that coerces viewers into believing in the directorÂ’s vision of the cr ucifixion. Not only doe s Hagelin think the graphic violence, as previously discussed, persuades with a false reality, but the violence, she goes on to say, Â“does cultural work not because on-screen violence encourages violence but because on-screen violence encourages (in fact, compels) consent to the filmÂ’s worldview. The Passion Â’s approach to its vi ewer models its ideas about how human beings should respond to fa ithÂ” (159). And for Christian Right women, this acceptance of the film as reality in c onjunction with an accep tance of the filmÂ’s
159 vision of faith can be problematic. Pote ntially, the effects on their subjectivity construction as they fit the brutality of the martyrdom of Jesus into their own negotiations of self-sacrifice and submission can further c onstrain their sense of agency and negate whatever amount of power they claim in thei r submission. Just as the Madonna paradigm is an impossible ideal toward which a ll women can only hope to strive, JesusÂ’s martyrdom is Â“theÂ” unreachable pinnacle of selflessness; the Christian Right womanÂ’s emulation of these two figures in an envir onment of fundamentalist absolutism has the potential to transform any powerful su bmission into sanctified victimhood. Christian culture already sees itself as victimized, and so Christian Right women will also be part of the viewer community th at commiserates with GibsonÂ’s goal to assert power in a popular culture he insists is hostile to Christ ianity. The part of their subjectivity that proclaims their victimhood as Christian women often discounted in a supposedly secular world will rise up as th ey spend their money and cultural capital on GibsonÂ’s revolutionary artistic endeavor. And although the filmÂ’s financial success is now a matter of public record, there hangs about Gibson and everyone connected with the movie an inexplicable sens e of martyrdom that, despit e the huge amounts of money made, somehow sends a message that sacrifices were made, too, and th ese sacrifices were both costly to the filmÂ’s creators and benefici al to the filmÂ’s purposes Perhaps it is the filmÂ’s success in light of its contradictory purposesÂ—creating religious communities and entertaining viewersÂ—that are most disturbing to the filmÂ’s detractors. Although religion and entertainment have long b een linked, it is still an asso ciative chain that smacks of disingenuity, hypocrisy, and propaganda.
160 Concerned Women for America: Proof that Christian Right Women are Postmodern Victims All of the contradictory aspects of the Christian Right womanÂ’s public ethos can be better explained, if not resolved, through an analysis of the private subjectivity represented in popular Christian texts, wh ich is, not surprisingly, fraught with contradictory complexity, too. The prosopoiia of the Christian Right woman results in a subjectivity that can be likene d to a patched together mask that combines scraps of fundamentalist Christianity w ith its archaic gender codes of submission and capitalism, part of which depends on the gendered role of the wife as the Â“family consumer.Â” And most importantly, even though she is part of what is currently the dominant force in America, the Christian Right woman also belie ves herself to be and behaves as a victim of secular forces. Through their connec tions to sacrifice, both the Madonna/Whore paradigm and the notion of powerful submissi on coalesce into the formation of a subject position of victimhood that the Christian Right woman claims for herself. Oxymorons be damned; according to Kintz, there is an ev er-ready fundamentalist panacea: their version of woman Â“is not contradictory becauseÂ— always alreadyÂ—God doe s not contradict himselfÂ” (37). As was discussed in Chapter Two, postmodern subjects suffer from a kind of schizophrenia Frederic Jameson explains as a breakdown of the signifying chain. This
161 breakdown is an effect of the inability of th e postmodern subject to successfully unify the past, present, and future, resul ting in a kind of schizophrenia that is Â“a series of pure and unrelated presents in timeÂ” (568). Women of the Christian Right negotiate a mixture of historical contexts in their efforts to unify biblical te xts and capitalism, old gender performances, and contemporary revisions of th ese performances. They are also coerced by all of the historical notions of class and race. Their proso poiia is even more frenetic than the subjective facemaking of other kinds of American women. Nevertheless, they wear the patched mask of the Christian Right with a pride that threatens to supersede the other powerful forces in American politics. The popular Christian Right texts previously discussed in Chapters Two through Four perpetuate a form of subjectivity cons truction that encourages Christian women to fracture themselves even further th an the average American women. Left Behind bestselling Christian wo menÂ’s self-help books, and The Passion of the Christ especially when taken together, paint a contradict ory picture of Chri stian Right womenÂ’s subjectivity that is nonetheless co nsistent in its inclusion in almost all available forms of Christian discourse with a female audience. It could be argu ed that that this form of Christian Right subjectivity, although found in popular Christian Right texts, is not necessarily an accurate reflection of Christia n Right womenÂ’s subjectivity. However, it is not just consumer products like the books and films above, which contain these subjective seeds. All of the reductive ideas and the fractur ed subjectivity found in these texts are also perpetuated in the socio-poli tical texts of Concerned Women for America, the political action powerhouse of Christian Right women.
162 Thinking of the collective ethos of Chri stian Right women as a patched mask provides an entry point into exactly what makes them such interesting subjects of analysisÂ—their construction as gendered beings who continually construct and disperse a contradictory picture of themselves and thei r moral frameworks. They insist on their biological difference from men, welcoming the strict boundaries inhere nt in essentialism, while utilizing stereotypical patriarchal form s of modernist argument and power as their chosen rhetoric. Rather than asserting them selves differently from the masculine norm, they mimic patriarchal rhetoric and objectives effecting their own masculinization. Yet Christian Right women also police the boundari es between Â“maleÂ” and Â“femaleÂ” just as dutifully as they do the separations between themselves and feminists, never realizing how much they rely on each for their own identity politics and subjectivity. As if this all were not complex enough, because the Christian Right, men and women, are part of a larger movement that is strictly conservative, Christian Right women must incorporate capital ist arguments into their relig ious rhetoric so thoroughly that right-winged conservative capitalist politics b ecomes synonymous with Christianity. The standard criticism of the Christian Right Â“buy-inÂ” to capitalism as hypocritical allows for a too-easy dismissal of the power the capitalistic character of the Christian Right enables it to wield. The stereotype is so pr evalent that it is a typical way of branding American politics as a whole in other countri es, especially European countries, where it is considered an apparent hypocrisy that a country claiming to be Christian makes domestic and foreign policy decisions based on economic self-interest rather than the wider good of the people involved. This is where capitalism and the free-market come into play in the Christian Right, and many ha ve trouble reconciling the contradictory aims
163 of the two schools of thought. Name-calling an d the use of terms like Â“hypocriteÂ” are an easy way to reconcile this confusing phenom enon, but like many simple solutions, this one cannot stand up to scrutiny. The sincerity of the Christian Right as a whole cannot be underestimated, so critiques of them must include some so rt of explanation of how capitalism fits their worldview instead of simply chalking it up to hypocritical greed. The Christian Right is a powerful political force that must be taken seriously. While they hold the rights to a Â“holier-than-thouÂ” attitude, ma ny of their critics might be described as having a Â“more-intellectual-tha n-thouÂ” superiority complex that enables quick dismissals of the Christian Right as uns ophisticated, anti-intelle ctual, and shallow. Many people even align the Christian Right w ith the South, an asso ciation that is no doubt attributable to the prominence of evange lical conservative Christ ianity in the Bible Belt. Thus, the stereotypes of SouthernersÂ—redneck, clannish, and, most significantly, ignorantÂ—transfer easily in many peopleÂ’s minds to the Christian Right, especially when leaders like Jerry Falwell, ci tizen of Lynchburg, Virginia, or the reverend Bob Jones of Greenville, South Carolina, are thought to epitomize the face of the Christian Right. Even our Texas-raised President George W. Bush, a born-again Christian inspired by Reverend Billy Graham (of Charlotte, North Carolina), is frequently summed up as unintelligent, a characterization that is ofte n tied to poking fun at hi s Â“anti-intellectualÂ” evangelical Christian beliefs. But assuming th e Christian Right to be primarily Southern and therefore pitifully lacking intellectual savvy is one of th e great misunderstandings of themÂ—a misunderstanding that may even, to so me extent, be intent ionally perpetuated by the Christian Right. James DobsonÂ’s Focus on the Family is located in Colorado, while both Concerned Women for America and the Heritage Foundation are headquartered in
164 Washington, DC, and the sophistication of thei r methods is so impressive that it would not be farfetched if one thought the stereot ype of Christian Right redneck intentionally planted by many closeted efforts to encourage the American public, especially the liberal public, to underestimat e the Christian Right. To be sure, the Christian Right is a powe rful political group this is aligned with right-winged conservative Americ an politics. In fact, cons idering the political stances taken by the Christian Right is one of the be st ways to distinguish them from other Christians, as Â“membershipÂ” in the Chri stian Right cuts across most Christian denominations. The Christian Right is a polit ically activist group. Th ey are involved in Â“pro-lifeÂ” (anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia), Â“pro-familyÂ” (anti-homosexuality and same-sex marriage), Â“family valuesÂ” (anti-fe minism) campaigns, and pro-Israel efforts and movements supporting the teaching of cr eationism and allowing prayer in public schools. Identifying the Christian Right according to what they do provides an important window into who they areÂ—act ivists who have a mission to change the world, not by conversion alone, although this is certainly an important pa rt of their vision. The Christian Right is and has been actively a nd purposefully creating revolution in America by attempting to implement radically conserva tive changes in all aspects of American life, from social relations to public policies. However, thei r portrayal of themselves is not as an offensive force; rather, they consider themselves to be in the defensive position. By claiming the position of the victim oppressed by powerful secular forces, they preserve their right to fight for Â“justiceÂ” against an all-encompassing enemy not far removed from the ubiquitous Beast Movement of Tim LaHayeÂ’s Left Behind There are countless organizations with limitless resources committed to this objective, some of
165 which include Focus on the Family, The American Family Association, The Heritage Foundation, The Christian Coalition, the Fa mily Research Council, and Concerned Women for America (CWA). Concerned Women for America and the Face of Christian Right Women The last group mentioned above, CWA, o ffers a Â“siteÂ” in which to locate the identity of the Christian Right woman. Repr esenting one of the largest Christian Right groups for women (if not the largest) and the largest Â“p ro-familyÂ” womenÂ’s group in the country, CWA claims 500,000 members, has a ten million dollar operating budget, a monthly newsletter that goes out to 200,000 subscribers, a daily syndicated talk show on 25 stations, and Â“what may be the most effective multi-issue, grassroots lobbying network in existenceÂ” (Steven Gardiner ht tp://feminism.eserver.org/cw-of-a.txt). For Concerned Women of America, establishi ng credibility is an important part of politics, but CWA is not attempting to estab lish credibility with everyone; rather, their attempts at establishing credibility are aime d at a particular cross-section of societyÂ— American, middle-class, white, conservative Christian women who are probably already sympathetic to their messageÂ—that thinks through many of the same modernist frameworks they do. Having this narrow of a range makes establishing an ethos much easier, and the extensive CWA website makes it easy to discern for whom this ethos has been created. CWAÂ’s website portrays a version of thei r public ethos that ma kes it clear that they are not trying to convert non-Christians to their faith. They use terms that portray their expectation to reach only those reader s who are not only Christians, but a very
166 conservative, politically aware, and fundamental type of Christian. Furthermore, their aim to excoriate other types of women is appa rent from the outset, and they aggressively attack other views with a sh arp, condescending, and sarcastic tone. CWAÂ’s ethos is also very much in line with conservative Re publican politics, and their mainstream neoliberalism is calculated in order to contri bute to this cause instead of compete with it or question its motives in any way. Modernis t arguments are prevalent in the discourse of CWA and in most conservative discourse because many tenets of modernity complement the absolutes of conservative politics. The Ethos of CWA and Modernism Because modernism and postmodernism are often contested terms, I turn to the explanation offered by Carolyn DiPalm a and Kathy Ferguson in Â“Modernism, Postmodernism, Feminism,Â” which, although it resists definitions, does very effectively unpack both notions. Often, modern thinki ng utilizes absolutes and claims to know which version of truth or sc ience or history is the best One of its objectives is maintaining order and clarity, and one of its hallmarks is categorizing. Power is considered a force in modernist thinking, a nd politics is the str uggle over that power, while gender analysis seeks to empower wo men to struggle against patriarchy and envision a different world. DiPalma and Fergus on even point out that Foucault went so far as to claim that the modern historical consciousness centers on revolution, and this is certainly true when one looks at the strides made in the modernist struggle for womenÂ’s emancipation. According to modernist schools of thought, there is a stable distinction between what appears to be and what is and the subject is centered and unified.
167 It is easy to ferret out the modern tenets relied upon by the Christian Right. Take for example, Â“Exposing CEDAW: Concer ned Women for America Strongly Oppose CEDAW,Â” an article posted on the websit e of Concerned Women for America that opposes the international tr eaty created by the United NationÂ’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimina tion Against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW is most often called an international bill of rights for women. Its preamble and 30 articles define discrimination against women, and it delineates what nations belonging to the convention must do to end discrimination ag ainst women when it occurs. CEDAW was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembl y, and as of 2006, 183 countries, or 90%, of the United Nations members belong to the co nvention. The United States is the only industrialized nation that doe s not belong to the conven tion (www.un.org/ womenwatch /daw/cedaw 6/2). Although Â“Exposing CEDAW: Concerned Women for America Strongly Oppose CEDAWÂ” was written in 2000, it is the CEDAW article (out of curre ntly 113 Concerned Women for America-authored articles listed in a CEDAW search of the organizationÂ’s website) that most aptly unveils the groupÂ’s co llective ethos in thei r appropriation of modern anti-feminist patriarchal discourse CWAÂ’s vehement opposition to CEDAW is based on the premise that the international tr eaty Â“is not necessary and would challenge the laws and culture of the United StatesÂ” (H ulbert), which is a modernist claim that assumes the singular and absolute reality of American Â“cultureÂ” (white, male, heterosexual, Christian, capitalist). Furthermor e, this claim that is the foundation for the rest of their argument against CEDAW depe nds on the modern (and patriarchal) notion that power relies on force and dominati on, and any alternativ e viewpoints are a
168 confrontational challenge to the dominant id eology that must be eradicated. Indeed, because of its attempt at the political subvers ion of traditional, masculine power, the treaty and its supporters are vilified by th ese women, whose religi ous activism is often actually a postmodern (and counterintuitive) discourse mix that furthers the hegemonic order of the New Right. The rest of the article on CEDAW is divide d into sections accor ding to the articles of the treaty, and the authors Â“exposeÂ” the fa ulty rhetoric that they claim would be counterproductive for women of the world, beginn ing with the treatyÂ’s basic definition of discrimination, asserting that Â“CEDAWÂ’s definition of Â‘discriminationÂ’ is allencompassing and dangerous. It goes beyond trying to establish equality, which U.S. laws already afford women. CEDAW is actu ally a global Equal Rights Amendment, a tool for radical feminists, who deny a ny distinctions betw een men and womenÂ” (Hurlburt). Not only do the authors criticize the treatyÂ’s goal to modify the traditional, biologically and religiously base d roles of men and women in or der to gain the egalitarian ideal of choice, but they also denigrate the qu est for equal pay for women, claiming that it is anti-capitalist. Furthermore, according to their Â“facts,Â” there is already equal pay for equal work, and statistics asse rting otherwise are doctored by feminists. Relying heavily on categorization, the section that includes the equal pay issue draws boundaries around men and women, gender roles, and economic st ructures, and does so in a way that any argument is categorically refuted by their assumed definitions of the terms. Not surprisingly, this commentary also opposes the treatyÂ’s feminist stance on reproductive rights and homosexuality.
169 Concerned Women for America is positing an illusory reality that can do nothing but bind them with its coercive production of identity. Many of their arguments are completely dependent upon strictly modern ist forms that utilize such ideas as dichotomies and absolute truths. They conceive of politics in the traditionally modern vectors of power and struggle and are certainly aggressively possessive of their views in a way that they would term masculine were it indicative of a femi nistÂ’s behavior. However, the very modernism of their ethos intersects in many places with their own ideas of masculinity so frequently that it br ings into question their absolute gender. Based on the shaky foundation of many kinds of essentialism, a patriarchally produced ethos like the one represente d by this particular article leaves no room for any other discourse other than the domi nant Neoliberalism of Chris tian Republican politics. The collective ethos of CWA is, however, internally shifted and changed by the very postmodernism its fundamentalist side attempts to erase. Although they distance themselves from postmodern ideals, the etho s and subjectivity of CWA and by extension, all Christian Right women, are perpetually in fluenced and shifted by both modernity and postmodernity. The Ethos of CWA and Postmodernism One of the ways that postmodernity shif ts CWAÂ’s ethos and political stance is by insinuating itself into their discourse. Once again, I am relying on DiPalmaÂ’s and FergusonÂ’s unpacking of the modern versus postmodern, which are dependent upon one another for their respective meanings. Po stmodernism is concerned with disrupting modernismÂ’s stability, and it calls into question many mode rn techniques, such as
170 categorizing and unifying. Postmodernism is rather occupied by dispersing and pluralizing. Language is most especially a site of postmodern play, and words are often redefined into infinity, while irony tips meanings upside down. In postmodernism, subjects are definitely not centered and are an effect of social forces instead of a cause. Similarly, rather than reflect ing reality, postmodern represen tations actually produce it. In this schema, gender becomes a space in which one can problematize the modern classifications of masculine and feminine, a nd postmodernism tends to dislocate the very boundaries between power and struggleÂ—and indeed, everything else (DiPalma). CWA and Feminist Frameworks One of the most postmodern aspects of th e collective ethos of the Christian Right women is their propensity to unwittingly uti lize the same theoretical frameworks claimed by many of the very groups whom they rank highest among the hell bound, most notably feminist academics and activists. This borro wing blurs the demar cations between these groups in a distinctly postmodern fashion and increases the temporal schizophrenia of the Christian Right womanÂ’s ethos and subjectivit y. In many of the cases to be discussed here, it is debatable whether or not feminism is the origin of the frameworks shared between the two supposedly diametrically oppo sed groups, but origination of thought is not the interesting issue. What is intere sting is that the politically active womenÂ’s movement of the Christian Right shares count less foundational premises with their arch nemeses whom they consider one of their most virulent oppressors, the feminists. Both groups tend to essentialize the other in their attempts to distance their movementÂ’s
171 activities and philosophies from the Â“evil othe r,Â” but often they fi nd themselves, in one sense or another, on the same Â“team.Â” Take, for example, the question of family and reproduction, which are both key issues for feminists and Christian Right wome n alike. Freudian ideas of family and sexuality can certainly be said to have a ffected both groups. According to Rosemary Tong, Freud claims that family is the force th at determines everything for an individual. He asserts that family depends on the heterose xual, married mother and father coupling to produce Â“normalÂ” children, who become normal adults through their indoctrination into society as boys or girls. Th e gender of an adult is create d by his or her progress through the sexual stages, and only a normal progression will result in a normal gender. Femininity and masculinity ar e the natural result of the pr ogress through these stages, and deviance from the norm proves that one of the stages was not successfully navigated within the confines of the family (31). Fr eud claimed that the onus of heavy sexualized responsibility is more oppressive on the girl than on the boy because both begin by loving the eroticized mother-woman. Only the girl however, is required to switch allegiances and love another type of sexuali zed being. If she is Â“normalÂ” as opposed to Â“deviant,Â” or lesbian, she will attach herself to a man. According to Freudian thought, an abnormal relationship with the all-important mother-wom an is the cause of such deviance in boys and girls alike. What is noteworthy here is that Fr eudÂ’s ideas of family and biological determinism is a large part of what drives modern interpretations of the idea Â“woman.Â” Although psychoanalytic feminists reject his biological determinism and instead concentrate on the realms of interpersona l relations, power, and environment in the
172 formation of individuals, they must rely on Freud in order to define themselves as psychoanalytic. Contemporary bonding theories are direct descendants of Freudian psychoanalysis, and according to Linda Kintz, have been used in scientific discourse to blame mothers for all of childrenÂ’s problems ( 42). The Christian Right, too, is overtly concerned with the idea of family, often ba sing many of its arguments on the strictly defined Â“normalÂ” family of a mother, father and children. They, too, think that any kind of deviance, as they define it, can be trac ed back to the enviro nmental domain of the family, and often blame women for the inadequa cies of their children, especially working mothers. Furthermore, FreudÂ’s ideas of feminine and masculine characteristics as naturally occurring pieces of any normal woma n or man is a fundamental aspect of the biological determinism prevalent in much of Christian discourse, both religious and political. Radical cultural feminists, although th ey are classified differently from psychoanalytic feminists, also depend on what is often said to be essentialism. Both radical cultural feminists and women of the Christian Right can be said to depend on oversimplified and reductive (and modern) defi nitions of the idea, Â“woman,Â” because both groups seem to depend primarily on the female bodyÂ’s reproductive capabilities for delineation of woman-ness. According to these two schools of thought, a womanÂ’s power and greatest privilege is her ability to give life through childbearing, and the natural result of this nurturing purpose are her feminine qualities. These feminine qualities are strictly classified and kept separate from the masculine qualities. Rather than trying to gain equality with men by becoming more like them, this worldview
173 stresses the superlative value of all things uniquely femini ne and encourages women to emphasize feminine values and virtues: selflessness, empathy, nurturance, humility, etc. This point of view may sound familiar because it is a more positive spin on the age-old masculinist argument that women, because of their mysterious life-giving abilities, are to be revered and protected from the harsher aspects of life. Often, this results in societal practices that leave wo men at a loss when attempting to do anything other than what has been dictated to be thei r purpose by masculine interpretations of their anatomy. This reverence for the feminine leads to other commonalities between the Christian Right woman and the radical cultura l feminist that stem from this shared theoretical space grounding women in reproduction. One such example is the association of the sexual act with morality. Radical cultural feminists assert that women should take no part in se xual activity that objectifies them. Therefore, sexual activity should occur only within the confines of an emotionally committed relationship, or the participants run th e risk of contributing to the social milieu that results in the climate of sexual viol ence suffered by women everywhere. Although marriage is not part of this discussion, and indeed, heterosexuality is one of the main institutions critiqued as abus ive to women in radical cultura l discourses, according to the radical cultural feminist, a good woman is resp ectful; she does not allow anyone else to Â“useÂ” her, nor does she Â“useÂ” others. Christian Right women base their accepta nce of sexual activity on the definition of family and marriage as define d so clearly since the civil ri ghts issues of the last few years: marriage is between one man and one woman and is the only union permitting sexual activity and/or intercour se. It is assumed that women and men who marry also
174 love one another, but that is not the most crucial piece of the morality puzzle for the Christian Right; rather, it is the instituti on of the spiritual and legal commitment of marriage that provides the only route to accep table sexual activity. Any other sex is abominable in the eyes of God and certainly i mmoral. Like the radical cultural feminists, the Christian Right woman views the act of in tercourse through a lens that minimizes its physical aspects, focusing instead on its connect ion to the spiritual or emotional realm of commitment and the social contract between se xual partners. Because of their propensity to repress the physical, both groups can be criti cized for their otherwor ldly attitudes about sex, which is considered by many to be a basic physical need rather than a supernatural occurrence. It should not be surprising, then, th at radical cultural feminists are antipornography; for comparable reasons, battling pornography is also one of the six core issues for Concerned Women for America In TongÂ’s explanation of radica l cultural feministsÂ’s position regarding pornography, three effects of pornography are cited as the basis for their opposition: pornography encour ages men to harm women; pornography defames women by implying they have no self -respect; pornography leads men to think less of women and treat them as second-class citizens in public life (66). Many of these sentiments are echoed in web publications f ound on the CWA website. In Â“Caught in the Web of Porn: from Victims to Victors,Â” Rosaline Bush, a CWA writer, claims that pornography is directly responsible for the increase in crimes against women and the condoning of these crimes in public life because pornography Â“evokes two dangerous rape myths: Violence is normal in male-femal e sexual relations and women enjoy rape.Â” Her article is included in a bi bliography of sorts that lists ov er 160 others, and it is one of
175 the many to include personal anecdotes fr om female victims of pornography. These anecdotes tell of the familial havoc wreaked by pornographic practices and are told by Christian women whose husbands are or were pornography addicts and emotionally or physically abusive as a result of their addiction. Pragmatic Spirituality There is another, more pragmatic, side to the women of the Christian Right, and this side counteracts some of the spiritual ity invoked in the previous arguments against pornography and purely physical sexual re lationships. Most notable among the characteristics of these women is their ability to unify, organize, and mobilize millions of people across the nation in one of the most powerful movements ever seen in America. Everyone knows the aphorism, Â“Behind every strong man is a stronger woman,Â” and this colloquialism definitely applies to the last twenty-five or thirty years of the Christian Right movement. In the last quarter of a cen tury, the Christian Right has transformed the American political landscape, along with th e worldÂ’s, through a b ack-door organizational structure that is still overlooked by many liberal s, regardless of its phenomenal success. This, by the way, is a large part of its pow er. Christian Right women are the often underestimated foundation of this wider move ment that is fought from homes and churches across the country. Participating women are informed about current issues and receive relevant paperwork at Bible studies and send their congr esspersons and repres entatives emails and letters by the millions. Very well-organized phone trees and newsletters inform members of their duties and progress, and selected individuals are financed for travel to
176 Washington marches and elsewhere for conve ntions of larger groups that provide inspiration and instruction for the coming year. This kind of structure displays Christian Right womenÂ’s modernist faith in America and it s systems. They believe in the ideals of hard work begetting achievements and legislat ive justice. In this way, Christian Right womenÂ’s groups, like Beverly LaHayeÂ’s CW A can easily be compared to Liberal feminist groups, like the National Organization for Women (NOW). Because of their political basis, these kinds of conservative political groups can be said to share a few general characteristics. They both conceive of humans as rational beings, separated from the animals by their intellect; this conception privileges the rational over the emotional and is the f oundation for the masculinist discourse of neoliberalism, which gives Â“rightsÂ” priority over the Â“good.Â” In this discourse, everyone is free to prosper in the competitive market, a nd it is this right that is protected at all costs. Both CWA and NOW seek to reform the current system, rather than replace it, and this notion of reform posits a certain faith in the status quo and the existing structures as fundamentally just. It is not surprising, then, that both gr oups are often criticized (from their own prospective corners) as existing only for white, middle-class women because only white, middle-class America has the good fo rtune to be in a position to want to maintain the status quo. Both CWA and NOW are making attempts to answer these charges by casting a wider net in terms of potential members and leaders, but their reputation as WASP organizations will be a hard one to shake and with good reason. Although the ethos of CWA, which I am positing as the representative ethos for most politically active Christian Right women, is formulated through a modern lens, there are still aspects of their p ublic face that smack of th e postmodern. Ironically enough,
177 these postmodern occurrences of discontinuity of collective identity and incoherence of theoretical vision destabilize th e entire structure of many of the Christian Right womanÂ’s basic premises, most especially the separation between their definitions of men and women and women and feminists, both of which fall under the gender issues umbrella. This leaning toward the postmodern is not at all surprising to its st udents because one of postmodernismÂ’s primary features is its pe rvasiveness, and Christian Right women, no matter how much they wish to the cont rary, are temporally situated within postmodernism. They, like the rest of us, cannot escape outside of it and have certainly not escaped its subjective effects; the postm odernism of their private subjectivities is certainly problematizing what they think is a coherently constructed public ethos. So, if one wants to better understand the modern publ ic ethos of the Chri stian Right woman, it is necessary to better understand the c onstruction of her private and postmodern subjectivity. The Gender Code of Powerful Submission Although many proponents of conservative Chris tianity insist that their version of the faith is a pure and literal interpretation of GodÂ’s very word, a ll ideologies are bound in their particular time and space. Even the gender codes of conservative Christianity, although they may seem archaic and stagna nt, cannot escape the pervasiveness of postmodernism. What can be interpreted as an oversimplified system of gender relations is in fact a much more complex negotiation th at further problematizes the Christian Right womanÂ’s subjectivity constructi on, especially in light of its intersections with ButlerÂ’s notion of gender performance and JamesonÂ’s schi zophrenic subject. Part of the Christian
178 Right womanÂ’s more private gender performan ce, as opposed to the ethos projected by groups like CWA, is an intern alization of the Madonna/Whore paradigm that manifests itself in the much discussed powerful s ubmission of the Christian Right woman. Powerful submission is the ultimate postmodern izing of the ancient societal requirement of women to be subordinate in a contemporary world that calls for them to simultaneously assert themselves. The c ontemporary Christian Right woman, remember, chooses a submission that is powerful because sh e willfully links her ow n self-sacrifice to that of Jesus Christ, and in this way, ultimat ely robs her male counterparts of their most valuable role model. All of the Christian self-help books anal yzed in Chapter Three offer advice on how better to submit, especially to oneÂ’s husband. This advice involves an almost playful, very postmodern mani pulation of words, spiritual discourse, and relationships that allows a Christian Right woman to fulf ill her duty to submit without ever completely relinquishing the idea that she is in charge. The discourse of powerful submission is an unrecognized appropriation of some forms of feminism, yet the Christian Right explicitly names the feminist the Whore, claiming Mado nna status for those women who resist its allure. This version of th e Madonna paradigm, as the self-help texts demonstrate, includes some subjective techniques in a womanÂ’s repertoire that are actually accommodations to the social milieu in whic h Christian Right women find themselves. Christian Consumers Another accommodation of Christian Ri ght women is their consumerism. Political conservatism and its neoliberal goa l of rampant capitalism provide another well-
179 worn aspect used to construc t these coherently gendered s ubjectivities. American women of the Christian Right may be spiritually motiv ated, but just like their male counterparts, and indeed, all Americans, they are also cr eated as consumer subjects by the capitalist culture from which they come. Christian pr oducts are a niche market that is no longer much of a niche but a vast territory staked out by savvy marketers who conduct meticulous market analyses. Nothing is sacr ed, even to the Christian marketer. If a Christian woman has problems with budgeting, she can learn to Â“look at money GodÂ’s wayÂ” by attending one of Doug BrittonÂ’s Chris tian financial planning seminars. If she wants to better understand the American war on terrorism and does not mind paying the yearly fee, one of the prophecy scholars a ssociated with Tim LaHaye, author of the apocalyptic thriller series, Left Behind will send her daily emails connecting world events to their interpretation of Revelation. Even parents who think one of their children might be homosexual can purchase one of Focus on the FamilyÂ’s publications, Love Won Out to Â“cureÂ” their child of the illness of se xual deviance. Some of these books even advocate gendered consumerist practices, such as masculine-looking women learning to buy and apply makeup with the guidance of mo re experienced Christian performers of the feminine gender. Christian Right wo men are definitely conservatives, and conservatives believe in the most extrem e forms of capitalism. Even though the discrepancies between Christianity and cap italism seem irreconcilable, this fusion successfully creates one of th e parts of the feminine Chri stian subjectivity that, when combined with gender, is most unshakeable. More liberal American and Western Eur opean arguments against Christianized domestic and foreign policy are based on the as sertion that conserva tive Christians are
180 hypocrites because self-serving capitalists cannot be Â“loving their neighbors as themselves.Â” However, this is a categoric al confusion because liberals cannot possibly conceive of the metaphors that sustain and justify the conflation of capitalism with contemporary Christianity. This conflati on is confusing to anyone outside of the fundamentalist loop, but a coherent and c oncise explanation of the powerful and meaningful myth of God as the original b acker of American capitalism is accomplished by George Lakoff in Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think According to Lakoff, the conservative view that Chri stianity and capitalism do not contradict one another can be explained through cognitive sc ience, which he uses to delineate the Â“nation as family metaphorÂ” utilized very differently by both conservatives and their liberal counterparts. He effectively expl ains why conservatives and liberals cannot attempt to understand one another without trivializing the views of the opposing group. He maps countless metaphors used by both groups to understand th eir very different worlds. Although all of his discussion is useful, an oversimplified version of his explanation of the conservative belief that capitalism is th e most morally upright system is all the given space allows. Conservatives run their own families accord ing to a strict Â“father modelÂ” that patriarchally practices a tough love, eventual ly resulting in children who grow up to be disciplined individuals w ith traditional morals: Strict Father morality assigns highest priority to such things as moral strength (the self-control to stand up to external a nd internal evils), respect for and obedience to authority, the setting and following of strict guidelines and behavioral norms, and so on. Moral self-interest says that
181 if everyone is free to pursue their self-i nterest, the overall self-interests of all will be maximized. In conservatism the pursuit of self-interest is seen as a way of using self-discipline to achieve self-reliance. (35) In short, conservative Christians believe th at God helps those who help themselves. If one considers this idea in light of different Christian ideas like the Puritan work ethic or Catholic asceticism, one can easily see how conservatism is intrinsically linked with Christianity. In essence, Christianity, po litical conservatism, and economic conservatism create a trinity that is self-reinforcing and self-propagating. Even conservatives who are not religious recognize the importance of supporting the status quo by supporting the values of many types of contemporary American Christianity. And when combined with the current climate of Neo liberalism, contemporary American Christianity mixes religiosity with self-reliance. Under this system, which posits that self-reliance is evidence of both morality and the ability to prosper fina ncially, wealth equals goodness equals wealth. Although both conservatives a nd liberals employ modernist strategies to make sense of the world (categories, metaphors, and such), conservatives can be linked to modernism because of their love for singul arity of tradition, focus, meaning, and a singular reality. Liberals, likewise, can be more closely linked with postmodernity because they more often value plurality of just about everything that the conservative considers sacredly unified and si ngular. Hence, it is easy for conservatives to call liberals anti-American socia lists without vision. There is even the conservative Christian vi ew that God is a capitalist, even though this kind of anachronistic pr ojection onto a supernatural being seems profane to some Christians. In one particular argument that has had a powerful effect on domestic and
182 foreign policy, Michael Novak, a member of the American Enterprise Institute, argues that the creativity of the cor poration is a reflection and exte nsion of GodÂ’s natural law; therefore, restricting corporat ions from their activities is tantamount to a mortal sin. Furthermore, it is an American duty to give the gift of free enterprise to the rest of the world (217). Cultural and material imperiali sm has been redefined: Â“Corporate activity and the export of U.S. culture are now over tly and without apology de fined as the highest expression of GodÂ’s will, the missionary extension of his culture to the rest of the globeÂ” (219). Although these examples are drawn from Ch ristian Right thinkers who are men, it stands to reason, given what we know about the Christian Right womenÂ’s support of these men, that the women, too, support these goa ls of Christly capitalism, too. Not only do they participate in preserving the status quo by making all of th e different Christian markets aimed at them a resounding success, but they actively support capitalism in their political movements, as well. They wield in credible power as a consumer group in all of their boycotts of companies, like the nationw ide Christian boycott of Proctor and Gamble because of its support of sexual diversity a nd the Disney boycotts, which resulted from DisneyÂ’s support of the Â“homosexual agend aÂ” and the prevalence of skimpy outfits for cartoon women in Disney movies. Although a tr ue free market would allow anything to exist that would sell, these women do not question the c ontradictions of their own politics. One of the six core issues of Concerne d Women for America is the preservation of the sovereignty of the United States agains t the rest of the worl d, especially the more socialist E.U. and U.N. Alt hough they do not ever explicitly state their views of the free
183 market as the moral market, their arguments about sovereignty and economy assume it. They even call some of their social soluti ons Â“free market solutions,Â” such as their argument for Â“a la carteÂ” cable pricing, the free market solution for Christian television viewers who do not want certain channels av ailable in their home s no matter how the remote is controlled. CWA is seeking an agreement in which cable companies will allow consumers to group channels according to thei r own preferences rath er than the channel clusters formed by the cable companies. In the wording of this online article, the words Â“free market solutionÂ” are inserted without explanation and in such a way that their meaning is meant to be a given to initiat ed readers, who are already conservative Christian Right women (Kieder). The Christian Right womanÂ’s subjectivit y, then, cannot help but be shaped by these arguments for capitalism, and she is constructed as a consumer by the moral free market. One might argue that all Americans are constructed as consumers, but what is different about the Christian Right point of vi ew is that now the pressures to consume are compounded and accelerated by a new pressure to do so on moral and spiritual grounds. George W. Bush did not speak in a vacuum after September 11th when he encouraged Americans to do their patriotic duty and spend money. Supporting AmericaÂ’s version of capitalistic democracy is now a moral impe rative for all conservatives, and Christian Right women are some of the most passionate supporters of this visi on, which is also the hegemonic one.
184 Dominant Victims The idea of hegemony brings us full-cir cle to the dominance of the Christian Right viewpoint. In many scenarios, th e conservative Christian viewpoint is the dominant viewpoint; conservatism has successfu lly incorporated parts of evangelical and fundamentalist Christian ity into itself and vice versa. This is most obviously illustrated in the dominance of conservative Christianity within the ranks of the evangelical, and sometimes fundamentalist, Bush admini stration, although ther e are nationwide movements that exert perhaps more political pr essure than even the White House. How, then, with all of this active political pre ssure from the Christian Right, can Christian Right activists claim to be the victims of a secular America? Not only do they make this claim, but they make it in such an effectiv e way that their often fallacious reasoning is invisible to their audience. Take, for exam ple, David Limbaugh (brother to Rush), who argues to reverse the seemingl y impossible status of the dominant victim. He reframes American Christian dominance into a questi on of numbers by recodi ng it as Â“majority,Â” cites global examples of minority rule, as in the case of South Africa, and finally ends this particular rhetorical tric k with a leap of logic that, while true, ignores the present dominant situation of American Christia ns: Â“Being a majority will only guarantee insulation from discrimination if that major ity has the political power, coordination, and will to protect itself. We know from our e xperience that vocal, militant minorities often get their way, to the detriment of the majority Â” (355). Without ever speaking directly to it, Limbaugh has derailed the fact that not only are Christians the majority, but theirÂ’s is also the dominant ideology. Si multaneously, he has called up feelings of victimization
185 and grounded his victimÂ’s discourse within a fe w of the worldÂ’s most deplorable social injustices. Because it is impossible to quantify, the Christian RightÂ’s vic timization cannot be proven, but it is certainly an influential portion of the coll ective Christian Right public ethos and private subjectivit y, and whether or not this id ea was originally planted to mobilize the Christian community, it is now a reality for millions of voting American Christians. Janet Folger, infl uential Christian Right political strategist and author of The Criminalization of Christianity: Re ad This Before it Becomes Illegal sensationally insists that the culture war could well result in a liberal police state in which Christians are locked up for simply living as such. In her introduction, Folger rhet orically focuses on literal imprisonment as a motivating force behind her call to action: Â“There is a war going on for the future of our country. Most people know that. What they may not know is that if the Christians lose, the result wonÂ’t be ju st public policy with wh ich we disagree; itÂ’ll be a prison sentence for those who disagreeÂ” (13). Later, she states her intention to incite a reactionary activism: IÂ’m writing this book not to make the cas e for you to get involved in the issues of the day because I think itÂ’s a good idea, or even because God has commanded us to do so. IÂ’m writing b ecause I believe that if we donÂ’t speak up now on the issues in our culture, they will be used to silence us. You can stay in the closet if you lik e, but stay there much longer and youÂ’re going to wake up to find a padlock on the outside of the door [. .] Yes, we have the right to remain silent, but if we use it much longer, we
186 may hear those words being read to us just before we see the inside of a prison cell. (31) Just like much of the Christian Right, Folger believes gender to be the predominant site of struggle in AmericaÂ’s cultu ral war, claiming that the Â“ greatest threat to [Christian] freedoms comes from the homosexual agendaÂ” (16) As sensationalist as Folger sounds, she is garnering the attenti on of many Christians, especi ally Christian Right women, because they are already subjectively focused on their own victimization. An ironic twist in the ge nder performance and subject ivity construction of the Christian Right woman is identification w ith victimhood, not because she is a woman, but because she is a Christian. This identif ication is an extension of the Madonna/Whore paradigm and powerful submission and is yet another subjective negotiation that allows Christian Right women to reconcile contradict ory ideologies under the umbrella of one consciousness. Rather than explicitly resi sting, Christian Right women choose ways to fight their subjugation that can be fused so mehow with the world views under which they suffer, even as they reject the notion that they are subjugated by their world views at all. Like the subjective negotiation of a powerful submission, the rhetoric of victimization must contain a subjective process by which th is self-classification can be made possible without condemning conservative Christia n worldviews. Chri stian Right women guarantee their places at th e Christian table by refusi ng to acknowledge their own victimization from within the confines of their supposed sa fe zonesÂ—the church and the familyÂ—while simultaneously including th e rhetoric of victimhood in their selfdescriptions in reference to the secular wo rldÂ’s treatment of them as Christians and women. However, the world is no longer so hostile an environment for the Christian
187 Right, and this ability to invert their own realities is perhap s what reveals these women as powerful agents. Their subject position of vi ctim is just another reversal of their realitiesÂ—like their powerful submissionÂ—to reconcile the contra dictions of their postmodern subjective multiplicity. Nevert heless, claiming victimhood status is a mysterious move, and whether it is rhetoric al or Â“realÂ” to Christian Right women, it fashions another patch that needs to be st itched onto their postmodern subjective mask. Concerned Women for America certainly cl aims the subjectivity of victims. Much of their ethos is based on a foundation that the American Way, or the Christian Way, is under attack by feminists, homosexuals Satanists, liberals, global forces, and anyone else that transgresses th e boundaries they have unilatera lly set for the rest of the world. Especially virulent is CWAÂ’s focu s on gender issues in its condemnation of feminism, although their political success is in large part, based on the success of feminist activists that created a space for the more insular, conservative Christian womenÂ’s movements. In one article, Â“Fem inism and the Family,Â” CWAÂ’s prolific Dr. Janice Crouse performs the same leap of logic accomplished by David Limbaugh when he discusses Christian victimization in term s of South AfricaÂ’s ap artheid. Crouse links the potential effects of American feminismÂ’s inherent untruths to the horrific massacres of millions at the hands of Hilter, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, a nd Pol Pot (www.beverlylahaye institute.org). Almost 200 ar ticles discuss feminism in just this light. According to CWA, feminism is a source of pervasive immorality that is actively infiltrating everything from the public school system to the federal courts in its efforts to take over the world and especially to perpetrate abominable punishments on all Christians.
188Oppositional Ideologies and the Â“VictimhoodÂ” of Christian Right Women One of the only ways to effectively theo rize about the subjectivity of Christian Right women is to accept their view of them selves at some point in an attempt to understand both their conscious and unconscious self-constructing, as well as their ideologyÂ’s construction of them. The conservative Chri stian RightÂ’s propensity to see itself as the victim of world secularization may seem a paranoid delusion, but to millions of Americans, it is reality. Given this acceptance, the theorist makes available postmodern tools hitherto abject in the st udy of Christian Right women. Including the theory of the victim in analysis of this group enriches any study of these women because they are thinking and behaving as victims even as they are enjoying dominance, and this certainly affects their influe nce on the world around them. Chela SandovalÂ’s Methodology of the Oppressed provides one theoretical overlay through which to view the women of the Chri stian Right as victims. SandovalÂ’s ideas shed considerable light on how these women can be linked to other groups of oppressed peoples through behaviors and strategies she identifies in her study of American third world feminists. For my purposes, SandovalÂ’ s five oppositional ideologies and five methodologies of the oppressed are most useful in connecting Christian Right women to other groups of victims, namely the third world feminists who are SandovalÂ’s focus. These feminists were fighting the battle of e ssentialism, not only with the world at large, but also with the hegemony of white, middle cl ass, American feminism. Although it is an almost ironic assertion, the white, middle-cl ass, dominant group that comprises the Christian Right womenÂ’s collective is utiliz ing the same subjectiv ities and strategies
189 employed by American third world feminists, who are, by definition, women of color and often of lower-than-middle-class socioeconomic status. In short, American third world feminists have been victimized by society at large and by feminism itself, and their courageous reaction to this very literal vi ctimization is their third world feminist movement. Sandoval defines five oppositional ideologies utilized by oppressed peoples, all of which are also utilized by CWA: the equa l rights form, the revolutionary form, the supremacist form, the separatist form, a nd the differential form. Sandoval, in her discussion of Jameson and afterward, all but calls her work on the oppositional ideologies a reaction to both JamesonÂ’s call for a new system of cognitive mapping (28, 9), as well as an answer to his lamentation that oppos itional activism is no longer possible under the pervasive co-optation of postm odernism. These modes are described by the author as cultural and topographical points that map a history of oppositional consciousness as a set of critical points within which [t hose] seeking to transform dominant and oppressive powers can constitute themselves as resistant and oppositional citizen-subjects. These poi nts are orientations deployed by those subordinated classes who seek s ubjective forms of resistance other than those determined by the social order itself. (53) That Christian Right women have located them selves at the same points on this map as third world feminists aptly makes the case that th ey are sincere in their belief that they are victims, and perhaps they are, but who are their true oppres sors? The question of whether or not America is a secular nation that targets Christians is not one that can be validated or disproved here. However, that the co llective subjectivity of the Christian Right
190 woman claims a victimÂ’s role can indeed be proven partly through an analysis of their adoption of this role using SandovalÂ’s oppositional consciousnesses. These modes of consciousness can also be linked historically to the different stages of feminism, which began with the First Wave, in which women sought equality with men. Women who participate in the eq ual rights form of oppositional consciousness argue that all differences between men and women are based on appearances or a physical reality that is not important compar ed to the premise that everyone is created equally, regardless of biological sex (55). This oppositional ideology is most easily seen in feminist groups, such as NOW, whose c onnections with the Ch ristian Right woman has already been established. Both groups beli eve in the American legislative system and wish to reform this existing system rather th an create a new one. Christian Right women believe they are victimized by what they cons ider to be discriminatory injustices they suffer at the hands of secular America and interest groups. For example, the CWA website repeatedly refers to the Â“homosexua l agenda,Â” which is al lowed to disseminate its Â“propagandaÂ” in the same public schools where Â“there is no place for the Bible [. .]. Often, [parents] feel intimidated by school bur eaucrats and helpless to do anything about itÂ” (LaBarbera). The Second Wave of feminism coincide s with the revolutionary form of oppositional ideology, which is implemented by those oppressed people who have lost faith in the current systems. This ideology is in opposition to the Equal Rights form. Not only does the revolutionary form highlight the differences between men and women instead of insisting that these differences are superficial, but this form also calls for a restructuring of society. Marxist and socia list feminists belong to this group (55-56,7),
191 and although the Christian Right women have very little in common with these two feminist groups on the surface, they do ofte n reveal a desire to make revolution in America, and have, in some ways, alr eady succeeded. Christian Right womenÂ’s wish to impose their religious beliefs on the lives of all American citizens through cultural means and through legislation, reveals them to be re volutionaries far more successful than the feminists they claim are conspirato rially taking over the country. FeminismÂ’s Third Wave encompasses both the oppositional ideologies of supremacism and separatist. The oppositiona l ideology of supremacism glorifies the differences of the oppressed by claiming that oppressed people have evolved further than their oppressors and are more suited to lead because of their highe r morals and vision (56,7). Radical and cultural feminists, as well as nationalists and the Christian Right, fall under this category. The following excerpt from a letter to President Bush from CWA portrays the kind of supremacist thought pe rpetuated by Christian Right groups. Note that this example is one of American supr emacy that does not even mention a spiritual issue directly: Â“Americans are committed to li berty, as our costly efforts to bring that precious gift to Afghanistan surely show. While we understa nd that it will take time for Afghans to mature in their enjoyment of so great a giftÂ—just as it did for AmericansÂ— maturation involves learning what is required and expected as a member of civilized nationsÂ” (www.cwfa.org Â“CWA Th anks President BushÂ”). Often, the supremacist form of oppositio nal consciousness leads to the fourth mode, which is the separatist one. Separatis ts have given up on being considered equal or transforming the world and have decide d that their differencesÂ—differences which make them superiorÂ—should not be tainted thro ugh interactions with the inferior, outside
192 world (56,7). CWA supports the sometimes se paratist practice of homeschooling, citing the following as some reasons parents c hoose to homeschool: Â“many find the worldview and curricula of evolution, liberal sex education and Â‘value-neutralÂ’ theories objectionable. They want their childrenÂ‘s e ducation to include ch aracter and biblical principlesÂ” (www.cwfa.org Â“Home Schools Set New StandardsÂ”). The fifth and final mode of oppositional consciousnessxvi is the differential form, which allows adherents to move at will wi thin and between the other four modes, depending on which mode is best suited to th e task at hand. Sandova l explains: Â“Out of the imperatives born of necessity arose a mobility of identity that generated the activities of a new citizen-subject, and that revealed yet another model for the self-conscious production for resistanceÂ” (42, 3). Sandova l likens the differential mode of consciousness to the clutch of an automobile, the mechanism that permits the driver to select, engage, and disengage gears in a syst em for the transmission of power. The differential represents the variant; its presence emerges out of correlations, intensities, junctures, cr ises. Yet the differential depends on a form of agency that is self-consciously mobilized in order to enlist and secure influence; the differential is performative. (57) The Christian Right woman is performing her role within the realm of the differential mode of consciousness as she moves in and out of the other four modes of consciousness: equal rights, revolutionary, supr emacist, and separatist. What is not clear is whether or not this is a conscious strate gy; it is a subjective negotiati on very similar to the powerful submission philosophy adopted by contempor ary Christian Right women. After
193 postmodernism made it impossible for Christian Right women to continue their existence without recreating their subj ectivities (unless they were completely committed to separatism as an oppositional mode of c onsciousness), their evolution included temporally schizophrenic adaptations th at spread through necessity and modeling between women participating in the grassroots action of prayer groups and potluck suppers. However, there is one important dis tinction that must be made between SandovalÂ’s differential consciousness and the movement between oppos itional ideologies accomplished by the Christian Right woman. SandovalÂ’s differential consciousness is posited as a technique of third-world femi nists reacting to hegemonic feminism, who demanded Â“a new subjectivity, a political revision that deni ed any one ideology as the final answer, while instead positing a tactical subjectivity with the capacity to deand recenter, given the forms of power to be movedÂ” (58, 9). Christian Right women are employing the differential mode of consciousness in order to achieve the inverse of this goal; their desire is to establish their ideology as the center and re-modernize the postmodern in every way. They are, in this s cenario, in the role of the hegemonic force, but they are successfully adapti ng the tools of the oppr essed in order to further conquer. Methodologies of the Oppressed and the Christian Right WomanÂ’s Definition of Â“FamilyÂ” Along with the oppositional ideologies identified by Sandoval, Christian Right women also utilize the technol ogies with which the oppressed dismantle both literal and figurative colonization through their practice of differen tial consciousness. With the explanation of these technol ogies, Sandoval claims to have answered FoucaultÂ’s
194 admonition that in order to advocate the use of differential consciousness, theorists must first identify and sharpen the Â“inner technologi esÂ” that assist in its development in the internal and material lives of those who w ill use it (67). SandovalÂ’s summary of these five methodologies and their connections is so concise th at it cannot be paraphrased: The first technology is the semiotic perception of objects-in-culture as signs of power to be taken in, rea d, and interpreted. The second is the method for the decolonization of meani ng through its deconstruction [. .]. The third, Â“meta-ideologizing,Â” like the previous two, requires differential movement [another technology] for its exis tence, first in the movement through perception demanded by the Â“i nnerÂ” technology of semiology, and then in the Â“outerÂ” and differential movement of identity itself through social order in the effort to effect change. [. .] Under the recognition of meta-ideologizing as a technology, poetry, silence, and all other technologies can be viewed as ideologi cal weaponry [. .]. These skills [of using said weapons] [bring] about new ethical and political standards in the name of egalitarian and democr atic social change: the technology of Â“democratics.Â” (113) In fact, by looking at how Christian Right women attempt to define Â“family,Â” we can see their use of these technologies w ithin each mode. Because they are not attempting to understand the concept Â“fam ily,Â” but rather create an exclusive definition their efforts provide a fertile site from which to examine their need for boundaries between themselves and those whom they c onsider to be their oppressors. Policing gender is a large part of this quest, which is certainly a moral and spiritual obligation for
195 these women. CWA, in fact, lists the definiti on of Â“familyÂ” as one of its six core issues and includes hundreds of articles written for their website from 1996 until the present as part of its argument for its own definition. The Christian RightÂ’s definition of family is portrayed by CWA as the union between one heterosexual man and one heterosexual woman united in legal and holy matrimony who ar e planning to have their own child or children or have successfully had a child or children. Using this definition, I will explore the Christian Right womenÂ’s use of the fi ve technologies of oppositional consciousness identified by Sandoval. The Christian Right womanÂ’s definition of family reveals her utilization of semiotics because their definition of family ignores its categorizati on as a historically produced concept and propagates instead an a lternative reality of its definition as a natural reality. Their recla ssification of family ignores, as well, the inclusions and exclusions inherent in such a narrow definition of this concept. By including certain families as such and excluding others, they create and perpetuate an unjust system that legally and morally recognizes the sign of Â“familyÂ” as a loca tion of vast resources of power and alienation In order to create this de finition, Christian Right women deconstruct alternative concepts of family in order to better unders tand the most effective way to reconstruct it for their own political ends. Both semiotics and deconstruction are used in their arguments against homosexual marriage and adoption, and although most oppressed people use these methodologies to return meaning to a more mobile state, Christian Right women use them to restabil ize the signifier Â“familyÂ” and the signified Â“family.Â” Meta-ideologizing, which is the creation of new significations of a higher level created on a foundation of the old ideology, in tends to Â“repoliticize languageÂ” (110), and
196 is a tactic that Christia n Right women use when they conduct the aforementioned reconstruction of the concept family for thei r own purposes. It becomes conflated with godliness, goodness, and all that is American, and in all of this conflation rises a new ideology of the Family. Differential movement, a power of differe ntial consciousness, allows Christian Right women to navigate through the cons ciousness by way of the above methodologies and is therefore, utilized in the space be tween each of these technologies. Sandoval explains that differential consciousness a llows the oppressed to Â“occupy or throw off subjectivities in a process that at once enacts and decolonizes their various relations to their real conditions of existenceÂ” (53), and differential movement is the actual performance of this consciousness between ideo logies or methodologies. In short, it is the movement between subjectivities. According to the worldview of the Christian Right woman, the practice of what Sandoval refers to as democratics, rather than being the use of the above weapons for egalitarian social change, would be the quest centered on conservative Christian values and the status quo of current Neoliberalism. Christian Right democratics is part of the process of defining family because it is the over-arching concept of their moral objective that acts as the code under which they justify the machinations of the family as a construct. The attempt to define family is, in large part, a defensive strategy, at least according to Ch ristian right women, who claim it is their responsibility to protect their worldview and way of life from all of the secular forces who incessantly threaten it. Victimhood is a subjective role adopte d by many women wh o are not at all associated with the Christian Right and one that contributes gr eatly to many womenÂ’s
197 process of feminist self-actualization. Ch ristian Right women do not, by any means, hold a monopoly on any of the subject positions we have attributed to them and for that matter, they are only one example of the pos tmodern schizophrenic subjectivity suffered by all American women. Because of the s ubjective conditions in America, women are conflated as sex objects and active agents, and they are constantly confronted with negotiating these contradictory subjective role s. What sets the Christian Right women apart is the extremity of their temporally sc hizophrenic subjectiviti es, their refusal to recognize that their public ethos and private subjectivities ar e anything but cohesive and solid wholes, and most importantly, their eff ects on America at large and other American women in particular. Christian Right women are furthering a goal of the Christian Right to reform American society in their own im age. Their quest for revolution, according to many accounts, is working, and one of the main reasons for its success is the politically active Christian Right woman. Sandoval, in her explanation of differen tial consciousness, links Christian Right women to yet another feminist theorist who is working against the reductive essentialism of some forms of feminism. Kathy FergusonÂ’s The Man Question: Visions of Subjectivity in Feminist Theory provides an analysis of the categor ies that comprise the subjectivities of the main schools of feminist thought. In it, she examines what she refers to as mobile subjectivities, the genealogical approach that is her preferre d feminism. Working within mobile subjectivities, one has the opportunity to utilize mu ltiple lenses, each of which provides different, even contra dictory ways of seeing the wo rld. Using these different lenses, one can combine contradictory ways of seeing into one multi-faceted and inclusive entity of thought. In this manner, Christian Right women navigate their
198 Christian identity within other multiple si tes of subjectivity, and they often employ a double, triple, even sometimes quadruple visi on in their subjective negotiations between Christianity and capitalism, modernism and postmodernism, anti-feminism and feminism, and the rhetorics of dominance and victimhood. But in defining their subjectivity within these sites, Christian Right women part comp any with Ferguson. Ferguson stresses that Â“The identity practices of mobile subjectivi ties are produced by instit utional realignments and material circumstances as well as by disc ursive deployments and shifts. When the structural arrangement of collective life ch anges, the people inhabiting them are often forced to resituate themselves and to renegotia te some elements of their identitiesÂ” (1756). Christian Right women, on the othe r hand, although they achieve subjective negotiations, still insist on pi nning down clear definitions, whic h restricts their ability to activate differential consciousness in their movement from one technology to the other; this desire to define and claim knowledge of the Â“TruthÂ” impedes their mobility, for Â“Mobile subjectivities are too concrete and dirty to claim innocence, too much in-process to claim closure, too interdependent to claim fixed boundariesÂ” (Ferguson 161). As the example of the definition of family illustrat es, Christian Right wome n seek to demarcate the boundaries between all subjectivity form ation in their world, from family and marriage to Christian and non-Christian, and most fundamentally, man and woman. Christian Right Women: Strategic Victims Until recently, the Christian Right was discounted and condescended to by academic theorizing, and thus was encouraged to continue its subversion of American progress behind the scenes. Although she is a powerful force in America, special
199 condescension is reserved for the Christian Right woman because she is viewed as even more intellectually impoverished and misguide d than her male counterparts. Many even consider her to be a harmless and impotent extension of her masculine protectors. Perhaps the reasoning behind these assumptions is based on her adoption of the victimÂ’s subject position through the confluence of the Madonna/Whore paradigm and the Christian notion of powerful submission. Becau se the Christian Right woman appears to be a victim, it must be so, and hence we fail to recognize her power. In actuality, Christian Right women are empowered by cl oaking themselves in victimhood. They strategically gain th e upper-hand over America and th eir husbands through the same methods of engendering superiority in their Â“opponents.Â” A powerful submission is just another way of being underestimated by the Â“other.Â”
200 Notes i Star Parker, one of the few African-American Christian Right figureheads and activists, received a standing ovation at a Christian Coal ition convention for usi ng biblical text to prove that God is a capitalist. ii 46% of Americans define themselves as Evangelicals (Gallup Poll,12/9/2002) iii Tim LaHaye is the creator of the seri es and co-author with Jerry Jenkins, an experienced and successful Christian author whose influence is politically negligible when compared to the long-standing Republican reformer status of LaHaye and his wife, Beverly. Not surprisingly, LaHaye and Je nkins are not equal partners in their Left Behind publishing endeavors because Jenkins is re putedly not included in a new spin-off Apocalyptic series planned by LaHaye. Because it is LaHayeÂ’s political influence, when combined with his brainchild, Left Behind that has returned the End Times to popular culture, I concentrate on LaHaye in this anal ysis. When I refer to Â“the author,Â” I am referring to LaHaye only and feel justified in doing so because Jenkins is most easily likened to a ghostwriter, even in his own desc riptions of himself and his writing process: Â“I get a fairly ambitious workup from Dr. LaHaye [. .] I immerse myself in that stuff [. .] IÂ’m constantly referencing the pr ophecies and the commentary of Dr. LaHayeÂ” (LaHaye LB Handbook 19). iv Although most Christians would probably rega rd the cross as an abstract symbol of loving sacrifice, it is more literally linked to the violence of the crucifixion, and so, in an inverse way, fits the narrative of Left Behind more effectively when considered in opposition to its more abstract and most common interpretation. v Historically speaking, conserva tive Christians who are also believers in the prophecy of Revelation have always been suspicious of technology due to the ways that popular prophecy has linked it with the Beast SystemÂ—r etail UPC codes have been said to be predecessors of the Mark, for example. Left Behind registers a definiti ve change in this stance, at least in regard s to Apocalyptic fiction. vi In an attempt to reduce confusion about whether or not I am referring to the Left Behind series as a whole or the first book of the series, Left Behind I will always refer to the series as such. When I use the title, Left Behind I am referencing the first book of the series only.
201 vii This series includes Every ManÂ’s Battle Every Young ManÂ’s Battle Every WomanÂ’s Battle Every Single Wo manÂ’s Battle Preparing Your Daughter for Every WomanÂ’s Battle Preparing Your Son for Every ManÂ’s Battle and countless guides, workbooks, and Â“Promise BooksÂ” to accompany each title. viii At least according to the book revi ew included on the web site of PublisherÂ’s Weekly (www.publishersweekly.com) ix Just for the record, Beverly LaHayeÂ’s four temperaments are borrowed verbatim from her husbandÂ’s numerous writings on the subject: Spirit-Controlled Temperament Transformed Temperaments Understanding the Male Temperament and Why You Act the Way You Do Tim LaHaye also developed his ow n personality measuring instrument, the LaHaye Temperament Analysis (LTA), which is advertised in the back of his and his wifeÂ’s books. x For further clarification, I looked up the Ta ble of Contents of the predecessor and young manÂ’s counterpart to Every Young WomanÂ’s Battle which is entitled, Every Young ManÂ’s Battle: Strategies for Victory in the Real World of Sexual Temptation and found that its authors, Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeke r, did not have a corresponding chapter. Although there is no Â“Becoming Mr. Right,Â” there is a chapter called, Â“What Girls Think,Â” but somehow this title doesnÂ’t send the same message. xi JesusÂ’s parable of three servants whose ma ster, before he departed on a journey, gave them different sums of money, according to their differing abilities, and judged them each upon his return. The servant to whom he gave the least amount of money (one talent) had protected it by bur ying it, rather than investi ng it and increasing its amount like the other two servants. This servant is banished for his supposed laziness and negligent refusal to utilize his ma sterÂ’s gift (Matthew 25:14-30). xii I am not neglecting to cite Dr. RobinsonÂ’ s credentials; Dr. and Mrs. LaHaye simply call her a Â“medical practicioner.Â” xiii Peggy Law, 57, of Wichita, Kansas and Jose Geraldo Soares, 43, of Belo Horizante, Brazil both died of heart attacks that occurred during a showing of The Passion. xiv All of the information regarding The Passion of the Christ in this first paragraph is taken from a review titled Â“Sacred Savagery: The Passion of the Christ Â” written by Pamela Grace and published by Cineaste on page 13 in its 3rd issue of the 29th volume on June on June 22, 2004. xv By categorizing certain traits as masculin e and certain traits as feminine, I am not attempting to engage the argument so popular in essentialist disc ourses, but rather pointing out prevalent stereotypes that are problematized in my reading of The Passion of the Christ
202 xvi The Differential form of oppositional cons ciousness can be included in the Third Wave of feminism, but I prefer to think of it as being the antecedent of a new era. Although Sandoval does not explicitly say this, I believe her text lends itself to this interpretation.
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About the Author Ellen L. Flournoy holds a BA in Englis h from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia; an MPhil from the Universi ty of St. Andrews in Scotland; and a PhD from the University of South Florida in Tamp a, Florida. She is pa ssionate about teaching and has taught literature and composition classes at both the hi gh school and college levels. Ellen will continue her teaching car eer in Germany, where she lives with her husband and two children.