Thursday, January 5, 2012

Submission and Feminism: Or, Will I Ever Find Equality with a Christian Man?


So for the most part we (we being crazy Christians) understand that whole “wives submit to your husbands” bit in the Bible is actually imploring spouses to submit to one another, because although the man is the “head of the household” (that term is ick) the passage goes on to say the husband must love his wife as Christ loved us. You know, in a get-tortured-and-die-on-the-cross-for-your-sake kind of way. That man has to do what’s best for you at all costs because Jesus says. Oh and because he kind of digs you too. That means even though the term “submission” seems antiquated and distasteful the actual practice of the instruction can be a part of a really beautiful and mutually respectful relationship. (P.S. It even says submit to one another right there at the beginning of the passage there, did you see that?)

I can get on board with that. Where I’ve run into trouble in the past is when “men” twist this and other parts of scripture into misogynist malarkey that allows them to control the relationship and treat women as simple-minded children on the basis that “men and women were created differently and have different abilities.” This is true. I can fully acknowledge that there are differences between men and women because I have eyes. And, contrary to popular chauvinist belief, a brain. My ire on this whole topic was recently heated to an uncommon boiling point after a discussion about Mark Driscoll’s book (which I’ve only read reviews of so I won’t get into my ill-informed opinions on that) led to a very brief, but very irritating debate about women as pastors.

The individual with whom I had this debate turned it into a statement on women’s abilities as he perceived them more so than a scripturally backed assessment of whether or not it’s Biblical for a woman to lead a church. Even if this standpoint ignores the social context of the verses that back it, I can respect the argument. And, I can respect the individual making the argument. However, when the basis for one’s opinion lies only in his view of whether or not a woman could be “good” at pastoring, comparing it to a man’s inability to breast feed (Yeah. That happened.), I’m inclined to reject the argument and change my opinion of the individual. The final straw was when he dismissed my thoughts on the matter as a reaction fueled by “misaligned feminist pride.” (Careful, honey, your bigotry is showing.)

Yep. He might as well have said, “Oh silly little girl. She thinks she can feel and speak like a man.” Because clearly the only reason I would be upset with someone for stating that it is physically impossible for a woman to do the things pastors do (like public speaking, leading committees, ministering to struggling congregants and studying and interpreting

Biblical teachings with his big brain) could be attributed to the absurd feminism I’ve been fed in all the years I’ve been outside the home with shoes on my feet and no baby in my belly. Of course he did say that women are better at some things than men. Like nurturing. Oh well thank you so much for throwing me that bone. Now I know I can contribute just like a man can. As long as I am a mother, a daycare provider or a nurse.

If pastors were required to fight off bears, drink copious amounts of booze and even drive, I may have been inclined to consider his conclusion that women are just unable to perform the duties of a pastor the way a man can.

He even admitted that some women may be “amazing teachers who teach the word of God” but don’t pastor churches for “the reasons [he told] me.” Those reasons being women aren’t suited to the role of pastor.  Now, I’m confused. Wouldn’t being “amazing” at something mean you are well-suited for it? Is he suggesting that a man who is a poor teacher is better suited to pastoral (not moo-cow pastoral, church pastoral) duties than a spiritually intelligent woman simply because he is a man? Guess it’s just too much for my wittle female mind to grasp.

Whatever, his asinine argument against women pastors and the topic of women pastors in general is beside the point. It’s what the basis of his argument says about his view of women that is actually the worst conclusion I drew from our abominable conversation. Like I said, had he presented biblical points rather than, what really amounts to attacks on the intelligence and capability of women, I could have walked away understanding and respecting the perspective.

Instead I became extremely upset about what this means for my future relationships. Because obviously the foundationless opinion of one man would shake my entire view of every Christian man in the world because I am an irrational woman and it’s what I do. This submissive/head of the household relationship only works if both the husband and the wife are viewed as equals in body, spirit and mind. Different but equal cannot mean different because one is intelligent and the other is equally intelligent…at making pot roast.

I’ve been in two too many relationships with “Christian” men who abused this spiritual leader status in order to exhibit control over me. And we weren’t even married. Sorry, sugarbottom, this rule doesn’t apply if I didn’t say “I do.” And when that “I do” does come, a healthy partnership can only exist if my loverkins views my opinions, emotions and concerns as valid rather than dismissing them as feminist drivel at the first sign of a disagreement.

The reason why this Southern (of course he is) gentleman’s opinion derailed me is because despite a number of factors working against a potential relationship even prior to this conversation, I actually kind of liked him. And he was/is a Christian. Who often complimented me on the fact that I was smart and funny. I now fear what he meant was “you’re smart and funny for a second-class citizen.” Which means the respectful Christian male is more rare than I thought?

I know this is quite the conclusion to jump to based on one very specific, heated discussion. But I have a hard time believing someone would make such base and simplistic arguments if they actually had a deep-seeded respect for the fairer sex.

My problem lies in the fact that I’m pretty damned traditional despite my “misaligned feminist beliefs.” I want to stay home with my kids if/when I pop those little suckers out. I believe that it will be beneficial for those boogers to have me around to shape their wee minds. I don’t, however, believe it is Biblically mandated that this is the only way to raise children. I think it’s a decision that has to be made within a family unit, with each parental entity’s opinion being equally considered in the final conclusion. I also like the idea of having a spiritual leader in my husband. My dad was the spiritual leader in our family (obvs). But I really don’t want to be led by some macho Neanderthal who believes that as said leader his voice is attached to a more fully developed cerebellum than my own. The beauty of the freedom God blessed me with despite cursing me with these awful ovaries is that I don’t have to marry someone like that. The drawback is, I’m narrowing down my options even more.

Maybe the problem is me. Maybe my Christian beliefs don’t reconcile with the idea that my spiritual thoughts are just as valid as a man’s. Upon hearing word of this discussion my friend Matt stated that we all have reasons we’re single “[this guy’s] is, he’s an a-hole.” Maybe mine is I’m a feminist (OH NOEZ NOT ONE OF THOSE) seeking equality in a relationship with a man whose belief system precludes that equality? I like to maintain that isn’t the case since I have seen the Christian relationship I long for in my parents, some friends’ marriages and in this sickeningly adorable couple. Alas, my quest continues.

3 comments:

  1. Christian guys who view things they way you do ARE OUT THERE. The thing is... they are just so gosh darn hard to find because all of the other ones are so freaking vocal and obnoxious about their views it drowns out everyone else. But they are there. I think part of it depends on where you look. If you're going to a church where they are Bible thumping shoving their views down your throat.... you're probably going to find more of the guys who are all "I'm the head of the household and you must SUBMIT!" If you go to a church where it's pretty chill - you might have better luck. Or better yet - they might not be at church at all. They're probably outside of the church walls living life.

    Then as I type this and think about what you wrote, I sigh to myself thinking "I'm in the same boat as she is most of the time."

    So yes, they are out there (I'm friends with several... but they are married or in a relationship), I hear ya my friend. It's hard to find them.

    But I don't think the problem is you.

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  2. EasyComeEasyGoBlogJanuary 6, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    Thanks Emily! Sometimes all it takes is a "hey you aren't alone and you aren't insane, what you want is out there" to maintain hope. Solidarity, my friend. 

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  3. I woke up the other day thinking about the Christian tendency to form relationships based on a hierarchical power structure... More so than in non-Christian relationships, it seems to me, because "God (but really, Paul) said so" is a tougher nut to crack open. Woke up thinking about this, because apparently it haunts my subconscious.

    And my conclusion is this: I don't want to be in a relationship that includes a hierarchy. Either we're in this together, and Jesus is our spiritual head... or we're not together at all. And if that means I'm single forever because I believe God has a different way of doing things than the world, then so be it.

    Because I believe that relationships shouldn't be about power, who has it, who doesn't, and who wants it. That's Satan's way of ordering things. I believe that relationships should be built on love, love for God first of all, and love each other from there.

    I know this lovely lady who mentored me a couple of years back. She and her husband decided years ago that they would make their decisions together, all of them, or do nothing. As a matter of fact, it was his insistence that he couldn't make a decision she wouldn't be happy with and expect her to live with it. If he believed that God was truly calling them to something, he believed God would also give his wife and partner the same calling. These men do exist, and I'm holding out for one.

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