Choosing to resolve these situations otherwise "may be countercultural for U.S. clergy, especially those who ... view family matters as strictly private, place a high priority on family 'stability,' teach an absolute prohibition against divorce, [or] practice 'male headship' and submission of women," the authors add.
In parts of the evangelical blogging community, the idea that women should submit to their husbands and do everything in their power to preserve their marriages can take a troubling tone. In a Warrior Wives post from 2012, the main blogger, Elizabeth, writes:
You can pray that God will bless your "sex session." You can pray that he would bring the desire to you. ... I've sometimes felt like, I just can't do this. This isn't going to be enjoyable. I REALLY DON'T WANT TO!!!! And then I've quieted my spirit and prayed. God wants sex to be good! ... He made it to strengthen marriage!
At least sometimes, it seems, this is what it means to be a "warrior wife."
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In the final chapter of her book, DeRogatis specifically addresses the experience of non-white evangelical Christians. According to Pew's comprehensive survey of American religious affiliation from 2007, about a fifth of evangelicals are black, Hispanic, Asian, or other races. Since then, that proportion has probably grown; as of 2013, an estimated 16 percent of Hispanic Americans identified as evangelical.
Yet, the many YouTube videos and blog posts and books about sex in the evangelical community are almost exclusively created by white people, DeRogatis said. "Part of that represents the book industry, and part of that is who has been identified as evangelicals, and part of that is the history of the black church—many people not claiming the term evangelical because it's associated with white people."
This creates some symbolic problems—purity being associated with whiteness, homogeneity in the racial depictions included in books, etc.—but it's also an issue of experience, she argued.
There's a "really strong emphasis in the literature that you refrain from sex prior to marriage, then you get married, and within marriage you have children, and you stay married," she said. "There isn’t a lot of wiggle room there, or even frank discussion, about the real people who don’t live up to that ideal."
Although she stressed that this topic was not a main focus of her research, she did find somewhat different language in the sermons of African American pastors like T.D. Jakes.
"What I saw in Jakes was a tendency to focus more on wholeness and on forgiving yourself: Your sexual past or things that might be seen as sexual indiscretions might be forgiveable. They don’t ruin you for the future," she said.
Although DeRogatis said that the audience Jakes is speaking to probably includes more people with experiences that fall outside of the evangelical "ideal" of a lifelong marriage and a minivan full of kids, she also pointed out that this experience probably isn't shared by many white evangelicals, either. It's all about "who’s writing the books and who’s selling them—who has the market on the books, and who’s buying them."
This seems to be a fitting observation for the whole warrior wives enterprise. Everything suggests that these ideas are earnestly and genuinely important to a lot of Christians, and a lot of Christian women in particular. But who's selling them?