Since I published my original post on Jonathan Merritt’s poorly researched, badly argued response to Kathryn Joyce’s upcoming book, I’ve had the privilege of bullied online by Merritt himself and other white male Evangelicals. When you are a woman with a blog, you expect this. It’s not the worst experience I’ve had, and since other women bloggers have been subjected to things like rape and death threats, it’s as tame as online abuse gets.
Nevertheless, I think it bears noting that white male Evangelicals are still fighting to steer this discussion. Merritt’s response to criticism was to publicly demean me and Kathryn Joyce, and to direct racially insensitive comments at a third male journalist. He still refuses to acknowledge the failures in his piece, and stated that I was ‘unserious’ for bringing race into the discussion. For the record, Mr. Merritt: you’re talking about the adoption of foreign children by predominately white American Christian families. Race is already part of the discussion, and it doesn’t become irrelevant simply because you’d like it to be. Your inability to realize this is largely why I, and others, took such serious exception to your piece.
His followers have adopted similar tactics. I tweeted a joke about needing a drink after reading their comments: that led directly to a snide comment about my drinking habits. I was abused by an alcoholic. I don’t appreciate the insinuation that I have a drinking problem. That insinuation would be inappropriate even if I hadn’t been abused. Now I’m being told that comment is a joke, and I’ve got to say: I fail to see the humor. Probably because it’s not actually funny.
I’ve also been accused of hypocrisy because I have yet to use my miniscule public platform to loudly condemn Kermit Gosnell. In a way, I admire the religious right’s ability to capitalize on tragedy in order to advocate for its political agenda. Clearly it’s working quite well for them. But on the subject of Kermit Gosnell, I will say the following: I did not write about it on this blog when the story broke three years ago. I didn’t write about it because I didn’t write about very much at the time. That’s because my abusive ex-boyfriend (the afore-mentioned alcoholic) had started harassing me via the blog. It didn’t do wonders for my PTSD. Three years later, the Gosnell trial is news again. I haven’t written about here, though I have tweeted about it. Obviously, I condemn Gosnell. His abuse of the trust women place in their doctors is horrific, and so is the infanticide he committed.
But here’s the thing about Gosnell, and my coverage of it: the Gosnell trial has been covered by so many feminists that I didn’t actually feel it was necessary to repeat their work. The necessary discussions were already taking place. It’s not comparable to the abusive situations covered by Kathryn Joyce. Those situations have been enabled by the Evangelical movement’s tendencies toward insularity and silence. Joyce’s work is necessarily exactly because Evangelicals themselves haven’t covered this. Additionally, Kermit Gosnell isn’t part of the feminist movement. This is not a No True Scotsman argument. I have researched the subject and as far as I can tell, he has never identified himself as a feminist. He never organized with the pro-choice movement. He didn’t advocate for reproductive justice at the political level. Compare this to the families profiled in Joyce’s excerpt. They were considered paragons of Christian virtue for their adoptive families. And the racism that facilitated the abuse they committed certainly isn’t limited to these profiled families. The glaring absence of non-white voices in the Evangelical response to this debate is evidence of that.
Put more simply: false analogy. Good try, but holy logical fallacy, Batman.
I don’t have any patience for the arrogant privilege displayed by Jonathan Merritt and others. It’s deflection, and it does nothing to help abused children. When your ire is directed at secular journalists, and not at Merritt’s bad research or even the abuse Joyce reported, something is wrong with you. When you refuse to acknowledge that race is inextricably linked to the adoption debate, something is wrong with you. And when you would rather attack someone instead of admitting that your movement has routinely failed victims of abuse, something is wrong with you.
And that thing is privilege. It’s the attitude behind the dismissal of abuse as a ‘fringe problem.’ It’s behind the attacks on women journalists and bloggers. It’s why Jonathan Merritt didn’t bother to speak to adopted children for his piece. It’s why Russell Moore gave his adopted children American Christian names. And it’s why I’ve been harassed, for days, by Good Christian Men. Of course they’re defending their movement. It’s a movement that frames their privilege as a divine right.