The Elephant In the Santa Barbara Shooting

There have been many excellent articles written on the role of misogynist (and patriarchal) belief systems in the recent massacre. You can read some herehere, here, and here. However, a very important, central matter has been missing from every article I’ve read. Speculation centers around what made Elliot do it – mental illness is always implicated, some hypothetical events of his childhood are sometimes implicated, and the MRA and PUA community are implicated or absolved.

We are asking the wrong question and we’re asking it deliberately, to avoid the most frightening aspect of the situation: a relatable young man, with friendly and likeable social interactions and no known diagnosis of mental illness, chose to slaughter innocent people. That bears repeating: Elliot chose to do what he did. A human being made a conscious decision to kill other humans, but I’ve not seen this fact not mentioned anywhere, even in the most progressive of articles. Even the most progressive of writers appear to feel obligated to say that on top of his being misogynist, ‘of course he was also mentally ill’.

It appears taboo to speak of the frightening possibility that perhaps he was not mentally ill. We know he believed that the women of the world owed him something, and he was frustrated, upset and angry that he didn’t get it. He decided that the thing that would make him happiest would be to take revenge on his enemies. He also decided that the consequences of his actions would be worth that moment of revenge. We need to look square in the face the very real and tenable possibility that he made a calculated, rational choice according to the beliefs and feelings that he had. He didn’t need to be mentally ill. He just had to hold the beliefs that he had and the experiences that led to his feelings.

This reality is frightening because it forces us to confront the fact that Elliot is not that different from any one of us. That our own beliefs can, in fact, have real world, life or death consequences. And it raises that uncomfortable possibility that we ourselves might hold destructive, false beliefs unawares. That some of the decisions we may have made, and may make in the future, were and will be based on false beliefs, and may be very wrong, evil actions though we believe them to be right and justified.

As frightening as it is, it is in our best interest to face this reality head-on. Being consciously aware of the destructive potential of our own beliefs empowers us to choose not to do evil, rather than simply assume that we ourselves, and any actions arising from our current beliefs, cannot possibly be evil. And it tempers our adamance that substantial decisions arising from our beliefs be made unexamined.

I first faced this reality at the age of 18. I was raised in a far-right-wing fundamentalist cult. I had been raised to have absolute certainty in each precept of the set of beliefs I’d been taught, and to not allow myself to question them. That all changed when actions I took in strict adherence to my beliefs on how to show love to my closest friend ended up wounding (metaphorically) her deeply and causing her situation to deteriorate instead of improve. How could deep love, combined with faithful adherence to true beliefs, have such a destructive effect? Perhaps I had believed falsely. Perhaps some of my beliefs were not true. I couldn’t allow false beliefs to drive me to such destructive action ever again. I needed to find out what was really, actually true about myself, God, the world, and my place in it. I needed to suspend some categories of decisions, judgements, and actions until I knew more. I couldn’t afford to make such a mistake ever again. This path has led me to a more nuanced understanding of the world and my place in it.

The reality that beliefs can kill must inform our decisions as a culture and as a nation. Can we admit, as a nation, that we have been wrong? Can we open our minds to the possibility that some of our embedded cultural beliefs could be incorrect, even destructive?

The Santa Barbara shooting is not the first time misogyny has killed. Misogyny kills and injures daily in the form of domestic violence. It systematically disempowers women in the workplace. It deprives us of political representation. We need to face the fact that misogyny isn’t simply the whining of a few ugly women with bunched up panties. It’s a systemic, destructive force that pervades American culture and law.

The champions of patriarchy are coming out of the woodwork in the aftermath of the shooting. Patriarchy has been exposed for what it is. This revelation threatens to weaken the freedom of men to use lesser amounts of violence to control and oppress women in their daily lives. Every time an individual ridicules the idea of a rape culture, or ridicules the idea that American culture is patriarchal and misogynistic, they are choosing to defend a system they like. They are choosing to defend systematic misogyny – that is, to protect their freedom to use overt and covert force against and upon women.

To reflect on, evaluate, and modify our beliefs is not a weakness, but a strength. Let’s face, head-on, our own potential to hold incorrect and dangerous beliefs. If you don’t think misogyny exists or that America has a rape culture or that our nation is structured with inherent patriarchy, this is your opportunity to examine, research, and re-evaluate those beliefs. For the rest of us, let’s not think of ourselves as immune or as having ‘arrived’. An attitude of conscious questioning of the potential of our own beliefs empowers us to grow and lead. And, ironically, it also gives us a degree of compassion and understanding for perpetrators of violence. Their choices are not okay, their beliefs are not okay, but maybe, as Norway has proven, they can be helped via appropriate rehabilitation. If we, as a culture, recognize our own capacity for individual and societal evil, we will be rewarded with a safer world with less evil in it.

Note: do not defend kyriarchy in this comment thread. Any and all violating comments will be deleted.

Lourdes, Lifeboats, and Bounded Choice: Part III (Raised in a Totalist Institution)

Becca Irene:

This excellent post by Cindy K explains how Second Generation Adults (SGAs) in ‘total institutions’ (such as the Christian homeschooling movement) do not have a ‘Realistic Right of Exit’. SGAs do not have the opportunity to experience the psychological, educational, and social development necessary to thrive in the outside world.

I find this concept – SGAs not having a ‘realistic right of exit’ – fascinating because it is something both SGAs and their perpetrators can, and do, agree with.

SGAs know how challenging it is to survive outside the ‘total institution’ – for many it is in fact impossible and literally their only opportunity for survival is to stay within the abusive community.

The perpetrators, however – (Christian) homeschool leaders, homeschool convention speakers, homeschool support groups, homeschool pastors, and even homeschool parents, openly discuss how essential it is to condition SGAs one has power over (i.e. daughters, sons) to not leave the movement, and to not permit SGAs to develop skills that could lead to ‘independence’ (another word they openly despise).

When a ‘Quivering Daughter’ / SGA leaves the fundamentalist movement, she is a victim of severe, long term trauma. But our culture has failed to provide a social safety net for these survivors, who are not yet officially recognized as survivors of domestic abuse or human trafficking, and whose perpetrators are rarely even prosecuted, let alone convicted, of any crime. And yet, not only did their perpetrators remove the SGA’s realistic right of exit *in effect*, they also did so knowingly, purposely, and with intent.

As we continue to raise awareness of the SGA homeschooler problem, it is my hope that access to social and legal resources will be opened to survivors.

Originally posted on Spiritual Sounding Board:


Using Katie Botkin’s lifeboat analogy, Cindy Kunsman explores the “Second Generation Adult” and Lourdes Torres-Mantefeuel’s alleged sex abuse by Vision Forum’s Doug Phillips


Lourdes MirandaPart III in a Series

Link to Part I

Link to Part II

By Cindy Kunsman, UnderMuchGrace.com

On the same day that Lourdes Torres-Manteufel’s petition was filed, the first cousin of Vision Forum’s Stay at Home Daughter evangelists/role models published a blog essay that I found deeply moving. Katie Botkin, the daughter of Geoffrey Botkin‘s brother Greg, noted that attorney David C. Gibbs III filed the documents on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Doug Phillips used the event as a talking point and celebrated the testimonies of survivors for 20 years, if I recall correctly.  Katie pointed out this significance, and she elegantly likened the lawsuit to Lourdes’ petition for a lifeboat rather than going down with the ship.

I found great comfort

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Originally posted on H . A:

Crosspost: Training Up Children the Homeschool Movement Way

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on March 17, 2013.


Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6

You see that verse?  Probably every homeschool parent heard that verse too many times to count throughout their homeschooling years.  It was engrained in us.  We did not want our children to depart from “the way they should go” and the solution was to “train” our children.  At least that’s what they told us.

Homeschool books from the Smith family library. Photo courtesy of Spiritual Sounding Board.

Homeschool books from the Smith family library. Photo courtesy of Spiritual Sounding Board.

Ever since my spiritual abuse journey, I have been trying to figure out what led our family to that spiritually abusive church and 

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Do children’s rights end where the sidewalk ends?

In a recent online discussion, someone said that ‘children’s rights end where the sidewalk ends’.  This is a variation on a common argument: children’s rights must be limited for their own protection.  If we allow them to make their own decisions, they will hurt themselves.

That this argument seems prima facie true is a symptom of our cultural prejudices.  It can be revealed as a prejudice through a simple allegory.  Imagine an intelligent adult from a culture without cars is visiting your area and you have been asked to show them around.  You are walking down the sidewalk together, and this individual suddenly steps into the street with oncoming traffic.  What do you do?

Your response wouldn’t be any different than it would be if a child did the same thing.

This isn’t because an adult from a different culture should have their rights limited for their own protection.  It’s not because if we allow them to make their own decisions, they will hurt themselves.  It’s because an individual unused to our world hasn’t yet gained the experience and knowledge to protect themselves from our technology.

And you wouldn’t respond by limiting this individual’s rights.   You would respond by taking immediate steps to protect them (despite their being an adult) and, in the longer term, educating them on how to protect themselves from the dangers of traffic.

You wouldn’t project from the fact that the individual needed protective intervention in this instance to limiting their freedom to set their own values or make their own decisions.

To intervene to protect the life of another human being is normal, no matter what age that person is.

However – if that same adult individual makes different life choices than we think they should make, we let them do so.  We try to understand and respect their differences in values.  We listen to them when they express an opinion and engage them in respectful dialogue instead of silencing them.  If they tell us they feel we have done something unjust to them, we take the allegation seriously and consider whether we have and if we should make amends.  We don’t think we have the right to coerce them into behaving in a certain way or engaging in certain activities because we value them or think them important.

Any individual deserves that respect, regardless of their age, and regardless of the fact that we’d intervene if they stepped off the sidewalk.

A statement on the rights of a child

I’m about to share something very radical and very close to my heart.

It’s based on a simple belief I have: All humans are created equal, regardless of age – men, women, children, and babies – all with the same inalienable rights.

For the purpose of this statement, “child” is defined as a human between birth and reaching the age of legal majority.

A better world would be based on these principles:

A child is fully human.

A child should be afforded every protection afforded to adults. Children are more vulnerable than adults, so should not be afforded less protection.

This includes protection against bodily injury, mutilaton, and assault, regardless of the agent of these crimes.

The child may seek restitution for these crimes. The state may prosecute for them.

The child has the same right to health as does an adult. Therefore, her right to medical care should not be obstructed, any more than an adult’s should be.

Obstructing a child’s access to medical care is equally a crime as obstructing an adult’s access to medical care. If his mobility is reduced to such an extent that he does not have independent access to medical care, those reducing his mobility has a responsibility to ensure that he recieves medical care when in need.

The child has the same right to choose those with whom he associates as does an adult. If a child chooses to change his place of residence, he may not be obstructed.

In the primal state, a child comes into the world with immediate access to natural resources that enable his survival. Due to legal implementation of property law, he no longer has access to these resources. Societies have an obligation to ensure that restituation for this is made to children.

In addition, those who bring a child into the world are responsible to protect and provide for him in his his period of dependence. They do not have any right to make any choices for the child as a condition of this responsibility.

I’m not sure how we can make this world a reality, but I think that when we do we will transform the world – first for children, soon after for everyone.

Instantly and easily cleaning up your gmail inbox

Some people have amazingly effective methods of keeping their inboxes tidy.  But if you’re like me and feel that your inbox has gotten out of control, there are two tools in the gmail labs which, when used together, can instantly make your inbox tidier.

To add these features to your gmail account, click on ‘settings’ then on ‘labs’.

The first feature you want to add is called ‘SmartLabels’.  The description Google labs gives for SmartLabels is as follows:

Automatically categorizes incoming Bulk, Notification or Forum messages. Filters are created to label mail with these categories and Bulk is filtered out of the Inbox by default.

The second is called ‘Multiple inboxes’.  The description:

Add extra lists of emails in your inbox to see even more important email at once. The new lists of threads can be labels, your starred messages, drafts or any search you want, configurable under Settings.

After enabling both these features and clicking save, here’s what you do.

Go to your settings and set your multiple inboxes to be to the right of your inbox.  Make one of them for bulk, one for notifications, one for forums, and one for starred or whatever other label you want to draw attention to.  I’d do them in reverse order of what I’ve listed here.

After saving your settings, archive all your bulk, notification, and forum messages, and set those messages to skip the inbox.  They’ll still show up in your multiple inboxes.

And voila!  Your primary inbox will now consist almost exclusively of important messages.  Most new messages coming in will going into one of the side inboxes, so they won’t distract you when you’re looking for important messages, but you can still view them when you choose to.

What techniques do you use to keep your inbox tidy?