Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood

bible_open3Often, you find what you want to find. I once made up a whole spoofing “doctrinal statement” on why women should lead, showing that women-on-top hierarchy can be “proved” from the Bible with hardly any more effort than man-on-top hierarchy. (Admittedly, the effort that went into man-on-top interpretations have been done for centuries. It thus takes less effort now from the one asserting it, than to think up interpretations for the opposite.)

But here is (a part of) how I actually read the Bible when not joking around. Here is (a part of) what I see when looking for the real message: Read the rest of this entry »

11 They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
“Peace, peace,” they say,
when there is no peace. Jeremiah 8:11

It is the big scandal that Americans are discussing on the Internet right now: Reality TV star Joshua Duggar have admitted to molesting 5 girls, four of them apparently his sisters, when he was a teen. The hypocrisy stinks more than any abattoir, because this family marketed themselves as knowing the perfect system for keeping children behaved, and for keeping girls safe.

The idea behind “Christian” Patriarchy is that women should just keep quiet and serve first fathers and then husbands, and in exchange men will protect them and they and their children will be save from the harsher realities of this painful world. This, so say the “Christian” Patriarchalists, is how God ordained men and women to complement one another.

Except that it don’t work. A world where women have to keep quiet, and men have all authority, is not a world where women are safe. Bill Gothard was one of the two most prominent leaders in this movement – he had to resign after molesting several teenage girls and young women. Doug Phillips was the other one – he had to resign for sexually abusing his children’s nanny. Why did this not come out sooner? Well, Gothard and Phillips had power. Their voices counted. The women/ girls did not have power. Their voices did not count. Read the rest of this entry »

I recently read an article with (very gendered) advice for Christian wives, that was accompanied by this photo:

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The article was the usual one-sided “do X for your husband, do Y for your husband” stuff, much of which would actually be great if both spouses did it for one another (praising and appreciating your partner) and others that are terrible advice (never telling him when he does wrong, as you are not the Holy Spirit). Such articles appear to have no notion of mutuality, of spouses treating each other as you yourself would like to be treated. This time round, though,  I noticed the picture, not just the article. Read the rest of this entry »

How would “Submit(ting) to one another” (Eph 5:21) look in real life? Should pastor Jim and elder Pete and saved 10-year old Eric obey Sunday School teacher Jane, while Sunday school teacher Jane obey pastor Jim, and Pete and Eric too, while Pete also obey Jim and Eric and they obey him, while Eric and pastor Jim obey one another? And what if Pete and Jane give conflicting messages – who should pastor Jim submit to then?

It is obvious that submitting, in Bible language, does not mean obeying everything that other people say. Submission is for all believers towards one another, and all believers cannot obey all others. It could not mean putting the other one in a hierarchy where he has the right to lord it over you, because Jesus said that those who want to be great in his kingdom has to be servants, and his followers should not be like the worldly kings who “exercise authority”.

As such, submitting as to Christ (Eph 5:22) simply cannot not mean “obeying every order as you obey the orders of Christ.” If it did, Paul would have contradicted both Jesus, and his own train of thought, in Eph 5.

Here is what I think it could mean.

What submission to Jesus is like:

Jesus came to earth as a human, and people (some of them, at least), submitted and followed him when they saw that Jesus

a) is superior in power and wisdom

and

b) had their best interest at heart/ loved them and gave His life to save them.

What male/ female relations in the ANE was like:

In the world the New Testament was written to, women had less opportunies to learn, and less opportunities to earn money, than men. Men married at about age 25 to 30 after they were established financially, women as teens. As such, men were richer and knew more than their wives.

What submitting as to Christ would mean, to such a wife:

When your husband knows better and asks something out of love, co-operate. It is sensible to co-operate with love, wisdom and power, and foolish to go against it.

After such a statement to wives, the passage seems to be written from the assumption that the husband already have knowledge and power (two things Jesus have more of than us). The passage tells husbands to have the other thing Jesus have in abundance, love. The husband should love his wife as much as his own body, that places her needs as highly as those of himself.

The start of submitting to Christ is seeing what Christ is. The start of submitting as to Christ should then be seeing Christ in who she is asked to submit to.

(In today’s Western world, of course, the situation is not as unequal, and women are as likely as men to have more knowledge and not that unlikely to have power or money. Which means that husbands, too, will often be wise to submit as to Christ.)

(My regular readers certainly won’t need the teachings in this blog post. This post is for those who reach this blog via search engines. Please, regulars, be my fellow teachers here. Comment to improve on what is said here and to add to it.)

There is actually a thing called “Christian Domestic Discipline”, in which husbands hit their wives when the wife allegedly does wrong, and twist the Bible to call it a Christian thing to do. (Sources here and here.) Of course, this is a covert movement, and the practitioners “convert” others to their activities in secret.

According to a commenter on that blog, Anne Garbozi Evans,

…my research has shown, while it may very well be more frequently popping up in patriarchal circles, it is by no means limited to those congregations. The only type of congregations that all of these wife-spanking people refused to go to were ones that ordained female pastors and taught egalitarianism. Any church that taught complementarianism was fair game for them to attend: their words not mine… many said they secretly suspected they weren’t the only ones to practice wife-spanking. They also heavily discussed how to bring up the topic of wife-spanking to your friend so as to “evangelize” them on the topic. They esp. thought they had a moral duty to tell any friends going through a divorce about wife-spanking as a way to “save their marriages.”

Read the rest of this entry »

I have never read Mary Kassian’s “The feminist mistake”, but I have read this quote from it:

“women grow up thinking that the essense of womanhood is the exercise of personal power – including sexual power.”

Women do not grow up thinking they are womanly when they exercise power. Today’s allegedly free young women in the Western world are Google-ing terms like “what should I do if my boyfriend wants to choke me?” Even when a man wants to do something that could actually kill them, they do not feel they should simply refuse and leave him. They think that it is unattractive for them to have or use the personal sexual power of “no, I don’t want to do it.”

Young women today are told it is wrong (“kink-shaming”) to shame sadistic men. Some men have fantasies of hitting women, treating them as slaves and objects and calling them sexual slurs. According to modern society, these men cannot be criticized for acting out those fantasies, as long as they get the women involved to not refuse.

Many teenage girls nowadays do anal sex – not because they like to do it, but because they believe that they, as girls, should submit to what boyfriends want. Christian culture, despite its insistence on female virginity, also often say that women are supposed to submit to men. Mary Kassian herself contributes to the Christian™ belief in female submission.

What men fear most about going to prison is what women fear most about walking down the sidewalk, and Kassian think women believe that sexual power is the essence of womanhood?

In this world where sexual violence is constantly part of the reasoning and decision making of women (we ask “will I be safe if I do this?”), Kassian not only tells us that “women grow up thinking that the essense of womanhood is the exercise of personal power”, she tells us that sex is God’s picture of how He relates to us, something we would have a hard time to understand otherwise.

You know what, Mary Kassian?

Part of the essence of womanhood, since the fall, is to feel fear of being overpowered and forced into things that harms our deepest being. And in a world where men want to choke, hit, rape or do other acts that give sadistic men pleasure, sex is really a terrible symbol of how God relates to us. Feminists don’t pretend we live in a world where womanhood means exercising power over others. Instead, we feminists work towards a world where we women don’t have to be so afraid of being overpowered, where women’s voices matter as much as men’s. From a Christian perspective, we want a world in accordance with the Jesus who wants us to care for (those seen as) the least, a world that lives by His teachings about not lording it over others.

Dear reader of Kassian’s books or blog, can I make a suggestion to you? Try to read some Christian egalitarians for a while. You may find that we, unlike Mary Kassian, actually speak to real-life situations as they happen on this planet.

—————

Note:

A fan of Kassian could say that I took one sentence “out of context” from a book I did not read. If so, they are welcome to provide a context by which we could really say that today’s women see womanhood and sexuality more as a power they have than as a vulnerability. I can’t conceive how her statement can possibly be true.

This is not what I hear from the leading theologians of complementarianism, but more from rank and file hierarchalists who use the Bible to defend why women should submit to them:

Christian complementarianism …sees [men and women] as being identical in nature but different in function and role. For example, women are to bear children where men are not. This obvious biological difference is a complementarian necessity within the family. Likewise, men are to lead their families with Godly direction, and the women are to support their husbands in their leadership. – Matt Slick’s wording of an argument I have often heard from complementarians

The thing to notice here is that this view compares male rule to an obvious biological fact. Who will do that?

1) The they-can’t-do-it sexist?:

Do they think it is obvious that women have no capacity to rule? That men, not women, ruling is as biologically unchangeable as women, not men, carrying children?

2) The unappealing man?:

Are their wives so unattracted to them that the wife would never initiate sexual contact? So that, if they as men do not lead their wives to the bedroom, they would have as few children as when women do not have wombs? In that case, this refers to how they see male and female roles in procreation. But it does not reflect well on their marriages.

3) The (potential) rapist?:

Are they saying that the way that bearing children is something female anatomy is designed for, ruling is something male anatomy is designed for? If so, men forcing women to have sex as would be seen as a good, manly thing – it is ruling over women.

 

If leading is seen as men’s natural, biological ability, where is the evidence for that? And what does it say of the men who see it that way?

 

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