Over the past two years, the term "spiritual rape," used by Mikey Weinstein to describe the unwanted and aggressive proselytizing of members of our military, has become one of the most popular go-to quotes in the world of fundamentalist Christian websites, the right-wing media -- and even in Congress -- as an example of Weinstein's scandalously shocking and outrageous language.
Just last week, Fox News's website, in an article about a case that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the organization that Weinstein heads, isn't even involved in, had to find a way to work in Weinstein's use of these preposterously absurd words:
"And they've even teamed up with folks like Mikey Weinstein at Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who accuses military chaplains expressing their faith of 'spiritual rape' ..."
Did Weinstein really use the words "spiritual rape"? Absolutely. Did he use them to describe Christians simply "expressing their faith." Of course not. And neither did someone else who used exactly the same outrageous words over 370 years ago in exactly the same context as Weinstein.
The fundamentalist freakout over Weinstein's use of the term "spiritual rape" began back in 2013, when he was quoted using the phrase by The Washington Post, and has continued ever since, with "spiritual rape" becoming the quote to use whenever an utterly shocking Mikey Weinstein quote is required. In fact, this quote has been used so frequently that if you Google "Weinstein" and "spiritual rape" you get over 7,000 hits! You find articles with headlines like WorldNetDaily's "Sharing the Gospel 'Spiritual Rape'?"; articles from Fox News like the one from last week as well as from 2013; the National Review calling Weinstein "a man who declares that servicemembers exposed to Christian ideas are 'spiritual rape victims'"; Hal Lindsey saying, "Apparently no place or venue is safe from Mr. Weinstein's near-omnipresent gaze. He's the guy who publicly called a Christian service member sharing his or her faith 'spiritual rape.'" The list goes on and on.
And then there are the fundamentalist Christian organizations like the Family Research Council, saying things like, "Did you get that? They say having someone share the Christian gospel with you is akin to being raped," and "God help us now when someone with such visceral hatred of conservative Christians--literally tens of millions of Americans--who says sharing this gospel is 'spiritual rape' is helping develop policies for how to deal with Christians in the military"; Bill Donohue's Catholic League saying, "If there's one person whose advice the Pentagon brass shouldn't solicit, it is that of Mr. Weinstein, a man who says the military ranks are full of "Christian fundamentalist monsters" whose evangelizing constitutes 'spiritual rape'"; and the Alliance Defending Freedom saying, "Weinstein has compared Christian evangelism to "spiritual rape.'" Again the list goes on and on.
But it's not just the right-wing media and fundamentalist Christian organizations that have gotten so much use out of Weinstein's outrageous "spiritual rape" phrase - it's also gotten plenty of use by the enemies of religious freedom in Congress. Just like it's become a go-to shocker quote for Fox News and the other fundamentalist Christian organizations, it's also become a favorite among members of Congressman Randy Forbes's (R-VA) Congressional Prayer Caucus, fifty-nine of whom, led by Congressman John Fleming (R-LA), signed a May 2013 letter sent to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel demanding information about a meeting Weinstein had had at the Pentagon, the entire second paragraph of which consisted of shocking snippets of Weinstein quotes (all taken out of context, of course), including the favorite - that "of concern are statements equating spiritual expression to 'spiritual rape'" More recently, a number of these congress members have utilized the "spiritual rape" quote when attacking Weinstein on both the House floor and in Armed Services Committee hearings.
The point of all these fine Christians incessantly bringing up this "spiritual rape" quote is, of course, to support their completely false accusations that Weinstein is an atheistic, anti-Christian zealot trying to rid the U.S. military of anything and anybody Christian. In reality, 96% of MRFF's over 42,000 clients are Christians; they're just not the right kind of Christians for the fundamentalists in our military.
So, if equating the aggressive proselytizing and forced or coerced conformity to Christian religious practices taking place in our military to "spiritual rape" makes Mikey Weinstein an atheist and an anti-Christian zealot out to destroy Christianity, then I guess someone else must have been an atheist and an anti-Christian zealot out to destroy Christianity - Roger Williams.
Yes, over 370 years ago, Roger Williams, the Christian minister who founded the colony of Providence in Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters after being ejected from the theocracy known as Massachusetts because he wasn't the right kind of Christian for that crowd, equated forced conformity to religion to "spiritual rape!"
In his 1643 pamphlet Queries of the Highest Consideration, Williams wrote (emphasis added):
"And oh! since the commonweal cannot, without a spiritual rape, force the consciences of all to one Worship, oh! that it may never commit that rape, in forcing the consciences of all men to one Worship, which a stronger arm and sword may soon (as formerly) arise to alter."
In his 1644 book The Bloody Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience, he wrote:
"A Soule or spiritual Rape is more abominable in God's eye than to force and ravish the bodies of all the women in the world."
And in his 1652 pamphlet The Examiner Defended, he wrote:
"Fourthly, I ask, Whether as to force the Consciences of the Unwilling is a Soul-rape, so to force the (Ignorant, prophane, and unregenerate) Nations, into a pretended holy fellowship and Communion with God, be not ten thousand fold more unholy and unrighteous, then to force into the Beds of any Men of Honour, ugly and de-formed strangers, yea enemies, yea and impudent Whores and Strumpets? Would the Proposer stile their commands holy, just, good, did the matter concerne but his owne Bed? as who can but know the matter in question so neerly concernes the Lord, being communion, which (Cant, I.) is no other then the mystical and spiritual Bed of the Lord Jesus?"
So, put that in your pipe and smoke it, Fox News, Family Research Council, Congressional Prayer Caucus, and all the rest of you! We have Roger Williams on our side!