Calling a Spade a Spade….

This is a spade:


This is also a spade:


Finally, this is also a spade:


The phrase “Calling a spade a spade” comes to us from Plutarch courtesy of Nicolas Udell’s translation of Erasmus, Apophthegmes, that is to saie, prompte saiynges. First gathered by Erasmus:

Philippus aunswered, that the Macedonians wer feloes of no fyne witte in their termes but altogether grosse, clubbyshe, and rusticall, as they whiche had not the witte to calle a spade by any other name then a spade.

Some people avoid the phrase due to the mistaken assumption that it had racist origins connected to the use of “spade” as a derogatory slur.  The useful phrase predates the slur by a good amount of time, however.  My affection for the phrase is shared by others, such as Joseph Devlin in “How to Speak and Write Correctly” (1910):

For instance, you may not want to call a spade a spade. You may prefer to call it a spatulous device for abrading the surface of the soil. Better, however, to stick to the old familiar, simple name that your grandfather called it.

and Oscar Wilde in “The Picture of Dorian Grey” (1890):

“It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty of giving lovely names to things. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for.”

Why the language lesson?  (For which I owe much thanks to Wikipedia, from where all the above information was gathered.)  Because I am about to call a spade a spade, or as Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1913) puts it:

To be outspoken, blunt, even to the point of rudeness; to call things by their proper names without any “beating about the bush”

Too often in the case of religious or cultural differences we hesitate to call a spade a spade.  We bend over backwards to see things from all possible sides, we claim we can not judge the practice of a different culture from the vantage point of our own, or we temper our criticism of a practice with the admission that “it is their religion so they have the right to do it that way.”  And then with a sigh and a shrug of the shoulders we move on to a different topic.  I do not buy into cultural relativism.  I believe there is an objective, moral right and wrong; I don’t care what culture you are from, having sex with an 8 year old is wrong, as is female genital mutilation.  There is an objective right and wrong in some cases, and I am willing to argue that point.

I consider myself a constitutional absolutist as well; I look at the US Constitution and Bill of Rights and am very hesitant to let anything encroach upon the rights bestowed by those documents.  I for one am not willing to trade freedom for security, and believe very strongly in the words of Ben Franklin:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Benjamin Franklin, Memoirs of the life & writings of Benjamin Franklin

That being said, I do understand that there are common sense limitations placed on our rights and freedoms for the functioning of a civil society.  While I have freedom of speech, that does not mean I am free to libel or slander others.  While the “fire in a crowded theater” example is overused and often misunderstood, it is useful if only to point out that I understand that rights have limitations.  The right to bear arms granted by the second amendment has obvious limitations; (is anyone other than perhaps the NRA arguing that private citizens should have access to surface to air missile systems?) and some less obvious. (I would argue that private citizens have no right to own assault weapons. )  Like the Second Amendment, Freedom of Religion is a right that some treat as if it were limitless; once claimed to be a religious belief, we must turn our heads and walk away.  Whatever the action is, it is automatically protected by the Bill of Rights!

You know this is bullshit.  I know this is bullshit.  But every year children die in America because their parents claim they have the freedom to not seek medical care for their children.  And while these parents are sometimes prosecuted, the shield of religious freedom they use drastically limits any punishment handed down.  Yet the children are still dead, God still isn’t listening to prayers, and the parents are often sent home to do the exact same thing with their other children.

There was a post over at the Friendly Atheist 10 or so days ago about a Baptist pastor saying some batshit insane things.  The guys at the Cognitive Dissonance podcast had some fun with it and I was going to leave it alone, but I can’t.   So without further ado, here is Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona:  (I will give a transcript of the important bits, so don’t feel that you have to watch the video.  If you want to though, the relevant portion starts at 45:43.)



I say I’ll teach that unto my sons and you say, well, aren’t you gonna teach that to your daughters? I’m gonna tell you this: It’s not gonna be humanly possible for anyone to commit fornication with my daughters. [Laughter] And you know what? You’re laughing but I’m not kidding… You say, what about when they go get a job? Well, they’re not going to get a job. Why would my daughters go get a job? What do they need a job for? You know what, I’m gonna pay for them, I’m gonna pay their bills. And you know what? When I’m done paying for them, their husband’s gonna pay for them. And I hope that he doesn’t fail in his responsibility to provide and send them off to work or something, but you know what, at that point, it’s none of my business. At that point, it’s not my responsibility. But you know what? When I pass off my daughters unto their husband, I’m gonna be able to guarantee that they’re a virgin because I’m gonna make it to where it’s not even humanly possible. Because I’m not gonna have them out gallivanting around town. I’m not gonna have them going off to work, and going out with all these people…

And you say, what if you don’t like the guy they’re dating? They’re not gonna be dating a guy that I don’t like. A guy that I don’t like is gonna get his face punched in. [Laughter]


And you say, well why the double standard? Um, ’cause everything in the Bible’s a double standard?! ‘Cause I’m not a feminist?! ‘Cause men and women are different? ‘Cause my sons are gonna be taught to be independent. My daughters are gonna be taught not to be independent. [Fake crying noises] My sons are gonna be taught to go out and work hard and make a living! My daughters are gonna be taught to be a homemaker, okay? You don’t like that? Well, whatever, that’s what the Bible teaches…

I know Dawkins got a lot of shit when he used this terminology, and I know a lot of people say that it does more harm than good, that it can alienate potential allies, but I am sorry.  This is child abuse.

A rose is a rose, a spade is a spade, and this is the abuse of a child.  Far more than the teaching of hellfire, this is abusive.  This is social isolation.  This is the blanket elimination of any goals and desires his daughters happen to have because they, in his eyes, are not real people.  They are less than, objects, possessions to be passed to another man once they reach the proper age.  Their role in life is determined by their vagina; they are homemakers who will be submissive to their husbands.  They can not have dreams of their future, because they have no future of their own.  They will be imprisoned by their father until a certain age, when they will be handed over to their husband, into what I am sure will be a marriage filled with love and mutual respect, where their role will be that of meek, submissive cook, maid, prostitute, and baby machine while their husband gets to chase his goals and dreams.

This is child abuse.  Even if one of his daughters, or the daughters of other fathers like him, manage to avoid the brainwashing and make it to 18 and escape his clutches, how much of a disadvantage will they be at in the real world?  One has to think any education these women receive will be home schooled and extremely limited.  They won’t have a circle of friends outside the church because they are imprisoned within the church.  They more than likely have no internet access, no window to the wider culture.  If by some miracle they seek a life of their own, they will be alone, with no family assistance, no education, no money, no friends, and no easy answers.

This is child abuse, and most of the victims will deny it completely.  “It is what they want for themselves,” they will say.  “It is God’s will for me,” they will cry out.  What do you expect someone who has never known anything different to say?  If you are raised from birth to be nothing more than some man’s wife when you grow up, nine times out of ten you will end up as some man’s wife and feel like that is what you wanted for yourself.  A child raised in the middle of nowhere, home schooled, with no access to the internet or friends outside their church structure  could be sexually assaulted every day of their lives and be raised to think it was normal.  If every member of the community did the same thing, it could even become a normalized part of the culture they were part of.  That doesn’t make it any less abusive.

This is child abuse.  If an adult woman wants to join Christian Mingle and find a husband she can submit to, a home she can make, and a baby she can shit out while claiming that is what her sky daddy God demands of her, that is her freedom of religion.  But we need to start the conversation about how much of a parents religious beliefs they can impose on their children before it starts to infringe on the rights of the child.

We already understand that freedom of religion does not mean a parent may refuse to provide medical care to a minor child.  I think we all agree that freedom of religion means a parent has the right to teach their child moral and religious values.  There is a line somewhere between the two that must be drawn.  At what point does the right of the child and that child’s future trump the parents religious freedom?

At what point does religion become abuse?

3 thoughts on “Calling a Spade a Spade….

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