Usually, I pride myself on my ability to provide intellectually sound opposition to the nonsense that regularly shambles, creaking, out of the American Evangelical subculture. Consider this nonsense a zombie. We all know what to do with zombies.
But today I’m going to leave aside the pursuit of reason for the pursuit of funny pictures on the Internet. The cause? Cory Copeland. Cory Copeland thinks he is a writer and this is technically true if we define the term by one’s ability to include subject and verb in a sentence. Specifically, Cory Copeland identifies himself as a Christian writer. I believe this ought to cause immediate and profound offence to Marilynne Robinson, Anne Lamott, and the shades of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, among many others, because this is how Cory Copeland writes:
“This girl met a boy and that boy had a way about him. He scaled rooftops and smiled like the sun. He captured the good girl in his madness and she soon fell in the deepest of love. The girl held strong at first, tossing away her boy’s hands as they searched her body, seeking satisfaction. Again and again, she dissuaded him, turning a stone cold cheek and halting heavy breaths before they had pushed too far. But the boy was relentless and vile in his objections to her goodness. He bombarded her wits with fallacies of unrequited love and lacking attention. He had played this game before and he was good.”
Absorb that for a moment. Has it sunk in? Excellent. Let’s move on.
Copeland has attempted to write a morality tale. He’s hardly the first ‘Christian writer’ to attempt this. In fact, he’s hardly the first bad Christian writer to attempt this. But I’m highlighting his work on my blog because his little story, originally published last June, is receiving renewed attention that coincides with a raging debate on purity culture among the women of the Christian blogosphere. We all know my opinion about Evangelicalism’s purity culture.
Nevertheless. I can acknowledge that is possible to discuss purity without revealing yourself to be a sexist, sanctimonious prick. Bloggers like Rachel Held Evans, Elizabeth Esther and Joy Bennett have recently managed this very well. Read them. They address the ‘damaged goods’ narrative and efficiently rip it to shreds. But alas for Cory Copeland. His story doesn’t challenge this narrative; rather, he supports it and sustains it the only way he knows how: by channelling a somewhat sunnier version of Mark Driscoll.
In Copeland’s morality tale, the young woman gives in to her weakness and permits herself to be defiled. Weep, wail, and gnash your teeth! Copeland writes:
“Now, she felt emptiness where love used to grow; loneliness where hope once flourished. No longer was her smile forever at the ready, but an ache had taken its place. An ache of regret; an ache of sadness. Despite her history of wholesome goodness, this fresh falling caused the girl to refuse the redemption that awaited her, for she no longer felt good enough for mercy; she no longer felt good enough for forgiveness.”
Our fallen angel now “sweated with the seekers” and “chased the pushers.” In the opinion of this particular apostate her “ache of sadness” is just as likely derived from the fact that it sounds like she is having the worst sex in the history of people having sex, complicated by the epic guilt complex bestowed upon her by Evangelicalism’s purity culture. That guilt is perfectly embodied in Copeland’s closing sentence: “She was beyond salvation now, of this she was sure.”
There is hope, Copeland assures us. We can be redeemed! But in Copeland’s tale the need for that redemption is made visible only through the psychological destruction wrought by shame, guilt, and pain. That will certainly convince me to return to church! But Copeland’s callousness isn’t limited to this. His tale mirrors Evangelicalism’s obsession with female behavior. The girl is fallen and in need of redemption while the boy merrily continues on his way. His relentless disregard for his partner’s boundaries isn’t labelled for what it is: abuse. The girl’s consent is described as evidence of her weakness; the integrity of her consent, its location as the final weary response to repeated emotional manipulation, passes without criticism.
The inevitable shitstorm has duly erupted in the comment section of Copeland’s piece. His only response to criticism? “The story wasn’t about the boy. It was about the girl and her struggles. That’s the story I chose to tell. Respect that. Thanks for reading.” Unfortunately, Cory, that’s exactly the problem: Evangelicalism always focuses on the girl, and it’s not your story to tell.
Cory Copeland would also like everyone to know that you can now buy both his books for $5! If you believe that the publication of Twilight marked a new and exciting epoch in the history of American literature, you should definitely snap those up. On a final note, James Dobson has just published his first novel, and I am retreating to my bunker to await the apocalypse.