Good Work if You Can Get It

I went over to see the College Professor yesterday and she was telling me the craziest story, about how the woman who used to be the English Department secretary when I was there has gone on to write a book and become a famous Christian self-help author.  We went to look at her book’s website both to be mortified and tickled.

See, on the surface, if you don’t think about it too much, it’s kind of a heartwarming story.  Her husband has a sexual addiction, she finds out about it, there’s much crying and praying, and she discovers she has an addiction as well, and there’s crying and praying, and God heals them and sends them forth into the world to share their ministry with others.

But as you start to delve into the details… Well, that’s where it starts to get weird.  First, his sexual addiction was sneaking around looking at porn and masturbating.

No, really, that’s it.

A grown guy looking at porn and masturbating.

You’d think that she might focus on the whole “sneaking around” aspect of it, which to me, is the obvious problem, not the whole looking at porn and masturbating aspect, which seems to me to be mundane and normal.  I’d be more worried if my husband had no desire to, at least, masturbate.

And her addiction?  What she helps other Christian women overcome?  She’s addicted to love.

Yes, addicted to love.

But what really has me tossing this over in my mind is how, as the College Professor pointed out, there’s something weirdly subversive about this whole thing. I mean, sure, on the one hand, I don’t want anyone running around telling women that there’s anything wrong or problematic about genuinely loving other people.  And I think it’s cruel to turn something that’s as natural as burping and farting and scratching a good itch into some referendum on your marriage.

But look at what she’s managed.

Here’s a woman in a very conservative branch of Christianity, who is supposed to let her husband lead her and who cannot get divorced, and who believes that looking at porn and masturbating is a sin against God and an infidelity to your marriage, and who believes that it is the woman’s job to keep the husband satisfied.  In other words, if she’s not enough for him sexually, nine times out of ten, her belief system is going to blame her for failing as a woman.

In the face of those odds, in the face of being humiliated when her husband’s “sexual addiction” was discovered when his car was towed from an adult bookshop, she’s managed to find a way to publicly shame him every dang time she gets before a group (which appears to be at least twice a month), build a career based around how he did her wrong, and be the center of their marriage, since he seems to have quit his job to support her burgeoning career as a public speaker.

So, in spite of her belief system’s views on the proper role of women, she’s able to publicly say that her husband has done her wrong, she’s able to hold down a job, she’s able to be the primary bread-winner in the family, and she’s able to make her career all about the ways in which her husband is an inadequate husband and Christian, and she still looks like the good wife.  And she goes around teaching other women how to do what she’s done!

It’s not exactly feminism as I would recognize it, but it’s subversive in a way that I can appreciate, even as it appalls me.

It got me thinking, too, about this story from the Scene this week about the inevitable problems the Southern Baptists are going to have with sex abuse (and let’s just be clear, this is a problem all denominations have or are going to have; it’s just dogging the Southern Baptists at the moment because there are so many Southern Baptists) and how part of the problem is that the pastors have the authority to speak and be heard and the accusers–because they’re young or women–don’t.

4 thoughts on “Good Work if You Can Get It

  1. Brilliant (your take on the weird subversiveness of it, I mean).

    On a related note, I ran into her at Target a few years ago in suburban Chicago. Because she had so freaked me out in college (always evangelizing to me while I was working my work study gig), I hid until I was sure I could sneak away without being seen. Didn’t feel like catching up. Or finding Jesus while I was out buying shampoo.

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