Friday, June 23, 2006

Andrea Yate's Husband: Why Does He Bother Me So?

Recently remarried former husband to child killer Andrea Yates bothers me. No, he didn't drown his children. She did it. She is responsible. She is a grown woman. And she is being tried, again, for the murder of five kids--her own. Their lives are snuffed out before they really had begun because a woman too proud or too mad to ask for help chose a permanent, violent solution to the problem of her burden. And yes, I'm aware that if a man committed this heinous crime (except if he was a combat vet) he would not be the subject (probably) of a post like this. But there is a reason for that.

Russell "Rusty" Yates subscribed to a weird version of Christian Fundamentalism and introduced his wife to these misguided beliefs. For most Americans, the views espoused in these dark corners of Christianity are so far outside the mainstream that when they are discussed even in oblique ways (wouldn't want to judge a weird religious belief since all religions except Islam are weird to secular journalists) by the press people simply don't or can't believe that such nonsense exists in these modern times. It does exist. I grew up in a milder version of one of these weird belief systems delightedly embraced by a father all too keeen to follow the self-serving, Bible-contorting tenets. Here are some sample foundational "truths":

  1. God's government is top-down. The authority chain goes like this: God to Jesus to Church/Spiritual Advisor to Man to Woman/Children. This notion is not an explicit teaching--it's implicit in the form and function of the church/sect/cult. Leaders are appointed by other leaders who deem the follower to be worthy. Democracy is impugned as a lesser form of government--the best that men can do--and shunned as a decision-making mechanism for the church. This serves a few purposes: 1) Arcane doctrines can never be challenged by a group 2) Total control rests in the hands of a few "select" men 3) Sweeping decisions can be made without the consent of the body of the group 4) Leaders can spend money any way they please--namely to pay themselves, a lot. A less silo-ish version, and more Bible-based one would emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus. Woman to Jesus. Man to Jesus. Heirarchy wouldn't be emphasized so much by moderate, judged "liberal or back-sliding", especially considering Jesus' indictment of the Pharisees who delighted in pecking order and the Romans whose system was entirely organizational. In fact great pride was invested in the Roman organization itself--the ideas were secondary. The problem with the heirarchial church structure is that personal responsibility is absolved in the mind of the adherent. If a believer follows the rules (usually set down by an "inspired" MALE leader interestingly enough) exactly as laid out by the powers that be, salvation is almost guaranteed. It can be undone however with slight infractions and miscellaneous sins to be determined by the aforementioned power.
  2. Women must submit. Almost every modern social ill is a woman's fault because she is insufficiently submissive and it started with that tramp Eve. Multiple sermons dedicated to Eve's disobedience to Adam, rhetorically asking "what if Eve had been with her husband instead of going off on her own when the Snake deceived her?" qualifies as "truth". The Surrendered Wife is wildly popular right now among some Christian women. They read the tales of one control-freak woman,who is now a one-woman industry and where is that husband of hers anyway?), and believe that their marital problems are because they are controlling shrews just needing to be tamed. Another booklet I read, and can't remember the title right now, goes one step further than abstaining from criticism and generally bugging the crap out of your husband. The key to marriage and salvation, is to do exactly what your man wants all the time. On judgement day, a woman will be weighed in the balance on one standard alone: how well did she submit to her husband? Hubby wants you to commit murder? Submit. HE must answer for that on judgement day. You will be absolved because you obeyed your worldly master. Husband wants a threesome with his toothsome assistant? Submit. You must answer for your lackluster or less than enthusiastic peformance in trying to please your husband. He must answer for anything wrong he might have asked you to do. I kid you not. Any degrading, even illegal, act your husband wants you to perform is your job to submit and do it.
  3. A Woman's Sole/Only Purpose is Childbearing. A good Christian woman these days doesn't just submit to her husband, and men in general, she gives her body to right all societal wrongs and births a boatload of babies. A current fad in some Christian circles, a book called The Full Quiver, waxes elephant about the gift of children and that true Christians allow God to "bless" them as many times as He wishes. Like all crazy ideas that seem to "ring true" (like Marxism at first blush) baby making women and the husbands who impregnate them are not just having babies, they are righting societal wrongs. Society generally doesn't seem to appreciate children all that much (true) and on the other hand indulges them (also true). The solution then is to show that children are blessings by having twenty of 'em who won't be selfish little twits because they'll have to share everything. Society denigrates motherhood (true) and believes big families reveal patriarchal oppression so Christian families must show the blessing of motherhood and be matriarchal--having lots of kids does that.
  4. A Christian's citizenship is above so this sinful, evil world doesn't matter. Worldly possessions? Sinful. A Christian values the spiritual over the physical. Modern amenities like the Internet, dishwashers and a housekeeper? Sinful. A Christian keeps his or her mind pure, washes dishes herself and is a good Proverbs 31 woman and knows her way around a mop. A lot. Since this world is entirely evil, the best one can do is survive until death when peace from Allah, I mean, Jesus comes. Christians (unlike Christ) don't associate with sinners. They separate themselves even if it means leaving friends and family in the dust, and eventually, the eternal lake of fire Hades. A good Christian lives for Heaven. Trying to make a living or allowing children to be polluted (thus the need for home schooling) is to sully sanctification. By most people's standards, the world is filled with crime, sin and the side effects of the above. But again, a big leap is made into a hemetically sealed life where "the world" is out there and pureness is "in here".
Some of the ideas espoused by the likes of Russel Yates and his "spiritual advisor" are just plain false, the more insidious ones take a kernal of truth, take a kernal of common sense and leap to false and nonsensical conclusions. Non-Sequitors rule their exegesis. But the bottom line of the belief system goes like this: World bad. Only some Christians with special knowledge good. Men rule. Women submit. Have babies. Stay removed from world's decay.

This insular filled with impossible standards (for women) breeds paranoia and delusion. An agrarian, less-isolated society where women worked alongside women raising children, cooking and cleaning would support the Andrea Yates' of the world. The nuclear family does not have the extended support necessary to fulfill these pie-in-the-sky pseudo-Christian ideals.

Some women, alone at home with five children under the age of 10 who is homeschooling, thrive in these circumstances. They feel made for motherhood. They love the sense of accomplishment of a clean house (one of my close women friends enthused about keeping her house clean, "I LOVE housecleaning!"). More power to them. There are lots of great families around here with four, five, even more children being homeschooled by perfectly rational, totally with-it women. None I know are starry-eyed about the commitment though. They work hard. They are tired. They recognize their life choice is not for everyone.

Other women and the men that encourage them, believe that anything less than this choice is un-Christian. They believe that God will judge them harshly for not embracing their God-given mandate. Lot's of unevolved Christian men exploit this belief system. They wouldn't lower themselves to help with the kids. They wouldn't make a meal. They wouldn't hire a housekeeper. That's a woman's work. A woman has sex when and how he demands. A woman submits if her husband wants more children even when she feels she can't do it--"God will provide". A woman will be able to handle everything if she "just has enough faith."

Some people wonder why Rusty Yates isn't harder on his wife for killing his five beautiful children. Why, indeed. Has he suddenly repented of that worldview--one where he will answer to God for the decisions of his wife? He would argue that he never asked her to kill his kids. She was unsubmissive about that decision, evidently. But he knows all the other decisions, decisions he coerced, implied or outright demanded she submit to.

Andrea Yates faced a tremendous double-bind within her belief system. Her mounting desperation, depression, anxiety and psychosis demonstrated a lack of faith in God. Her resentment toward an omnipotent yet lazy husband demonstrated her ungodly lack of submission to God's divine order. Her inability to perfectly fulfill Proverbs 31 demonstrated how worldly she still was. Her anger at her lot in life reveal an attitude still shaped by society.

This belief system tasked the man with seeing to the needs of his wife. It was his job as the authority in his house to decide when and how and what his woman needed. Rusty knows this. His insistance that she was "a good woman" and should be viewed not as a criminal but as someone with a sickness reveals this worldview. He doesn't seemed shocked or disgusted or outraged or infuriated or appalled. By the only standards that matter, "she was a good wife". She submitted. What more could a man ask for?

Andrea Yates fulfilled her responsibilities as wife. According to this worldview, the one who failed is Russell Yates. Patently obvious statements like, "I wasn't the one who killed the kids" isn't so obvious through the lens of man in charge, woman is mindless robot fulfilling the will of the husband.

This whole dynamic is uncomfortable for a lot of reasons. The Yate's relationship and warped "Christianity" point the spotlight at a lot of crazy "Christian" happenings in the name of God. I don't blame God, Jesus, the Bible for what the decisions Andrea Yates made. I blame first, Andrea. She isn't stupid. In fact, she's really smart, an overachiever who did what she did "with all her might" (Ecclesiastes). She bought into a belief system that I call check-list Christianity. Her husband was the chief beneficiary in this system. He didn't mind that his children might be in harms way--they were to submit to their mother. That's the way God made it.

In this warped world, Christ's service to others first, his notion of first will be last, his love and kindness extended to women and children and beggers and the diseased (who were all lumped in the "less than" category, thank you very much) and his miraculous healings and compassion are ignored in favor of a harsh, angry, totalitarian, unforgiving, unmerciful, malevolent God.

Like the terrorists, those who espouse these beliefs twist God's teachings and misapply them to their own nefarious ends and claim God's authority to do them. When the fruits of these beliefs are murder, rape, and madness, they either excuse it, defend it or ignore it. Kind of like Russell Yates does for hi ex-wife.

He is not absolved of his part in Andrea Yate's mad murders. His convenient belief system created a fertile environment for this crime to happen. No one should be shocked, and he doesn't seem to be, that it did.


vj said...

What a needed post this is in reagards to weird believes! We also were involved in milder such believes and I refuse to subject my children to anything remotely close to it. There is so much anger, fear, condemnation and self righteousness in this type of believe systems that it is truly scary to think of how inflated mens egos can become. What is also scary is that there is so much of this sort of stuff out there. People want to do the right thing, they want to be sincere and yet deception runs rampant. People have to think and have to be decerning.
Thanks for this post!!!!:-)

Anonymous said...

Dr M I think you have put your finger on it. I wonder if good old Rusty(in the corvette) and his new wife are expecting a child???

chacha zoom said...

Her husband is autistic.