Thursday, May 05, 2016

Please Don't Force Them To Marry...

... or how conservative extremist Christians do not have a clue about what marriage really is.

Vaughn Ohlman, yes, I'm going to talk about Vaughn, he whom I've teased about the Apple Meme and who is currently on the societal hotseat over his recently canceled retreat named 'Get Them Married.'

I don't know what other peoples marriages are really like, but I know what mine is like. We're a little over a month away from our thirtieth wedding anniversary and there are no divorce plans in the future. We didn't meet in a church youth group, or have a courtship or a betrothal. We dated.

In those years we've had joy, we've had tears and our bond is stronger than ever. My daddy didn't pick out Jim for me and insist we wed an hour after meeting. I dated Jim for over three years before we married. I wanted to be absolutely sure about what I was doing before I married him. But unlike most of these Quiverfull young ladies I wasn't in a hurry to marry because I'd seen how crazy marriage can be.

The great irony for us is that even if we're long out of our old fundamentalist/evangelical mindset we're still pretty traditional about some things. He mows the lawn and takes out the trash. I load the dishwasher and do the laundry. But unlike traditional gender role folks we're both very flexible, doing whatever needs to happen to keep the family running well. Example? A few days ago I spotted a few hours that were relatively dry and mowed the lawn. Jim's been busy and it's rained every day for weeks here. The grass was tall. I pitched in and did the thing that needed to happen regardless of whose responsibility or role it was.

Marriage is a partnership, not a slave and owner relationship that nearly every single Quiverfull or conservative ministry seems to claim it is. That is one of the many things that disturbs me about the agenda pushed by radical Christianity. Life just isn't that neat, tidy and compartmentalized naturally.

I've known Vaughn for a long time now, maybe three or four years since I first quoted him at No Longer Quivering for our Quoting Quiverfull feature. I've corresponded with him. Why? Because he's one of the few from the Quiverfull side that is approachable and open to discussion. So many on his side, hell, from either side, aren't willing to discuss what it is they believe or open to any sort of possible commonality.

For a very long time, even before I left my old faith, I felt that the only way that the problems of this world were going to be solved was by reaching across divides and finding that place where we intersect with one another. It's a big reason why I have friends and correspondents from all over the faith or no faith map. I think it's an important thing. I might not agree with people, but I've always respected their right to their opinions.

But after all that's been said and done in the last 48 hours I think I'm going to have to remove Mr. Ohlman from further discussion. There are just things that I cannot abide, that offend not only the laws of our great nation, but violate the social good.

Let me recap what any of this has to do with marriage and what incident I'm referring to.

Mr. Ohlman runs a ministry and website titled 'Let Them Marry' He preaches and teaches a theology that is unique in Quiverfull where most everyone finds their spouses either by courtship or by dating. What he believes is that all marriages should be arranged by the fathers with the prospective partners being allowed to meet for a few hours before telling their parents yes or no. Immediately thereafter the families and potential spouses sign a betrothal contract and an informal wedding happens at some short distance in the future.

Here's where I have problems with this.

1 - Basically it's arranged marriages, just like what was common back in the old days. Back in old times it served a legitimate purpose. Arranged marriages allowed for consolidation of power, such as in royal families. It allowed brokering of peace treaties and protecting large estates. There's not much need for anything even remotely like that now. Unless you're one of the members of the shrinking pool of royalty left in the world.

But it allows the potential spouses not much leeway in who they were marrying. It robs them of choice. I've seen how badly arranged marriages can go wrong as in the older couples in my large Cajun family in Louisiana.

One of the very reasons I took so long to marry Jim is that I wanted to be as sure as one can be before marriage that this was going to work out. I didn't want to know just what Jim was like when things were going well and everything was new. I wanted to know what he was like, really like. Anyone can put up a pleasant facade for a few hours and I fear that many of the young men and women being matched and married off like this are being fooled, rooked by a facade of someone that actually does not exist.

2 - None of these marriages are performed, licensed or registered by the state. Which means that they aren't legally recognizable. They genuinely are no different than what my late father, who was rather square and old fashioned about such things would call 'shacking up.' or living together. I have no problem with adults in a committed relationship living together, but I do have a problem with religious people throwing rocks at people living together 'in sin' while pretending their own unions are somehow 'holy' because of a betrothal contract. I doubt those contracts would hold up in court.

Beyond the hypocrisy of pretending these weddings are any better than a domestic partnership the other issue is one of standing under the law. Time and time again in the world of Quiverfull I have seen or heard of unfortunate young brides losing their husband to an untimely death and finding out that they have no legal standing to inherit anything from what the law considers their 'common law spouse'. It's a bad idea that does not protect the dower rights of a woman, and does not always offer any legal protection for the children born of this couple.

But.. if everyone is of legal age and consenting then who am I to tell anyone else how to live their lives? At least that was my thought process about the type of path to marriage Von preaches. Till today.

Over the course of the last few years Von's managed to get most of his children married off using his own personal methods (which aren't mentioned anywhere in the Bible either). Recently he decided to hold a 'retreat' or conference for like minded families to meet up and allow their marriageable young adults to mix and mingle.

Here's where it goes from 'live and let live' to toxic and weird for me, to something that has managed to grasp the attention of many out there after Vyckie Garrison of NLQ wrote an article about this retreat for Raw Story. Some more pieces of Vaughn's theology were revealed:

The Get Them Married Retreat is a 3-day retreat designed to bring together like-minded families (and their unmarried young men and women) who are committed to young, fruitful marriage and to help them overcome the barriers which have kept their children unmarried. We will be having some teaching/testimony times, some 'icebreaker' games, and maybe just plain fun running around; but our major focus and priority will be bringing together unmarried young people and their families so they can intentionally network together with a goal of arriving at God-glorifying marriages.
The main purpose of this retreat is not to attend teachings. There are no speakers or real events on the list. It boils down to one thing. Match making. Bringing young women and men together for marriage. The way this is worded it seems as though it's expected that there will be a number of betrothals by the end of the weekend.

Alright, still everyone is an adult so it's all copacetic, right? Another wrinkle. Mr. Ohlman's idea of the right age to marry?

John Calvin defines the “flower of her age” (1 Corinthians 7:36) as “from twelve to twenty years of age”. Likewise, John Gill defines it as “one of twelve years and a half old”. And Martin Luther says, “A young man should marry at the age of twenty at the latest, a young woman at fifteen to eighteen…” We do not endorse marriage at ages as young as twelve. Our position is that, for a woman:
  1. The ‘youth’ ready for marriage has breasts. A woman who is to be married is one who has breasts; breasts which signal her readiness for marriage, and breasts who promise enjoyment for her husband. (We believe that ‘breasts’ here stand as a symbol for all forms of full secondary sexual characteristics.)
  2. The ‘youth’ ready for marriage is ready to bear children. Unlike modern society Scripture sees the woman as a bearer, nurser, and raiser of children. The ‘young woman’ is the woman whose body is physically ready for these things, physically mature enough to handle them without damage.
  3. The ‘youth’ ready for marriage is one who is ready for sexual intercourse sexually and emotionally. Her desire is for her husband, and she is ready to rejoice in him physically.
Yes, his own words indicate that once those breasts grow and someone has the physical growth that looks adult then marriage should be taking place quickly. No matter if education is finished, or if there are even employment opportunities. None of that matters, only that their secondary sexual characteristics have developed.

Three years ago when Mr. Ohlman married his son Joshua (in his twenties) to a young woman named Laura Camp I'd assumed that she herself was of legal age. Today as I was reading through the articles on the retreat and being directed to Laura Camp Ohlman's blog in one of her blog postings she was speaking as an old married lady with three children with the stated age of 19 years old. Which means she was clearly not legally old enough to be married. Since there was no legal marriage her own father is responsible for his daughter's statutory rape. Andrew Camp delivered his daughter into breaking the laws of legal consent and Vaughn Ohlman helped!

With attempting to set up even more marriages without  marriage licenses at this retreat between the differing families only at the fathers discretion there's not much difference than kidnapped children being trafficked as sex slaves. A pile of puling patriarchs suborning underage sexual activity. Sounds like a bunch of Jesus-shouting pimps doesn't it? Fathers pimping out their daughters, almost literally selling them into statutory rape.

Young forced fake-marriages where young women get abused and have no say in their own sexual agency. It's hideous and in my eyes almost unforgivable.

I have a lot more to say about all of this but it's getting late. Let me just say I'm happy that the overwhelming response warning the Salvation Army about these Pimp-Daddies has stopped the retreat as of right now.

Part two tomorrow.

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