Tag Archive | Mutuality2012

Notable News: Mutuality Edition, Week of June 1-8, 2012

My apologies for posting this so late in the day.  Here are my favorites from the week of synchroblogging inspired by the week of mutuality.

1. First, kudos to Rachel Held Evans for her outstanding work.  She will be continuing to post over the weekend, so be sure to check out what else she has in store (including her own highlights of the best).  Her series has been fantastic.  Here are the posts, in order of appearance:

2. Christian Marriage: Fail?  Pam Hogeweide is one of my favorite bloggers.  In her post My Failed Christian Marriage, she talks about the struggle to fit the ideal for Christian marriage and the joy in finding freedom from those restraints.

3. Fabulosity on Alise Wright’s blog.  Another blogger I just can’t get enough of.  First, Alise catches our attention by reminding us that You Don’t Have to Take Your Clothes Off to Be Egalitarian.  Then, she has the always wonderful Sarah Moon share her thoughts on Too Much in a fantastic guest post.  If you don’t read anything else, read these posts!

4. A couple of men weigh in.  I always like the way Travis Mamone shares his heart.  This post is a good way to introduce some deeper theological constructs without getting bogged down with terminology; it’s nicely put.  Through the trending topic #mutuality2012 on Twitter, I discovered Jonathan Aigner’s post sorry, little girl: a patriarchal response.  Great thoughts on the deficiency of the female gender and faithfully following God’s gifts in our own lives without causing guilt in others.

5. The Best of the Rest.  I could go on and on, listing everything I like and why.  Instead, I will simply list the several other posts that I found meaningful.  Even though we’re all writing on the same thing, each person has a unique voice, an interesting perspective.  What an amazing week it’s been!

Feel free to leave a comment with any blog posts you like on the subject of mutuality/egalitarianism, whether they’re from this week or not.  Don’t forget to link to your own if you wrote something!


Another view on Biblical submission?

Since the last post was short, here’s another brief one to round out my own thoughts on mutuality (see footnote).  You can read the other three here, here, and here.  Tomorrow, I’ll recap the week with my favorite posts from around the web, so don’t go anywhere.

My final thought on this subject has to do with same-sex relationships.  As many of you know, this is a topic I love to challenge the Church on.  Today is no exception, but it comes in the form of a question.

How do Christians in same-sex long-term relationships/marriages handle the issue of submission?

Okay, I get it.  The majority of complementarians probably also believe same-sex marriages are outside God’s will.  Fine. But for those who don’t subscribe to that view, this is a teachable moment.  After all, being complementarian doesn’t mean being conservative in all ways (though the correlation is probably pretty high).

According to complementarian theology, men and women have certain roles within marriage.  These roles can be very conservative, encouraging women to stay home, care for the household, and be the nurturing spirit of the family while men work and are strong and masculine.  But these roles can be more flexible, recognizing that women can work and men can stay home, that household chores can be divided equally, and that children are everyone’s responsibility.  The main point is really that men are the spiritual head of the household and that women should respect them as such, trusting their husbands to lead the family.

I am not certain this would work in a same-sex relationship.

Honestly, I don’t know.  I’ve only ever been a woman married to a man.  I’m not trying to be irreverent, nor am I trying to be ignorant.  I’ve never asked this question before.  I guess I never thought about it much.  Come to think of it, I’ve never given much thought to what my role in my own marriage is “supposed” to be, much less anyone else’s.

I do wonder if this is what some people object to when it comes to same-sex marriage, though.  Is it the idea that two men or two women couldn’t reflect or represent God’s relationship with the church properly?  I suppose that is an issue, in some people’s minds.

Anyway, I am sincerely interested in the answers.  I would love some of my Christian friends in same-sex relationships to help me out here.  How do you read and interpret the Bible on the subject of submission?  Is it irrelevant to you, or do you choose to read those words in a way that is meaningful within your particular relationship?  Have you ever heard a message given on this subject that you found applies to you?

Chime in, don’t be shy!  I’ll bet there are a lot of people interested in the responses.  And be sure to let me know if I’m overstepping the bounds of being appropriate here—I’m not above loving correction and I will be happy to remove this post if it’s offensive.

This post is part of the Week of Mutuality led by Rachel Held Evans.  You can follow the other posts on Twitter with #mutuality2012.  Check it out, there are some fantastic writers weighing in on the topic.  On Friday, I will highlight my favorites.  Look for Rachel’s faves in her usual Sunday Superlatives.

A new view of submission

This is the third post on the subject of mutuality (see footnote).

I got some nice responses to my first post in this series, including a mention in this post (which I enjoyed reading; I appreciate the writer’s generous, loving tone).  On my Facebook page, one friend wrote,

[To] us that word [submission] doesn’t mean authority it mean[s] “source.”

I found myself thinking about that, because I liked it, but couldn’t place exactly why.  Then I realized that I liked it because it has profound implications for both complementarians and egalitarians.  In other words, we can both be right, because in our unique marriages, we can figure out with our spouses what to do with it.

I looked up the word “source” and found the following definitions from the American Heritage Dictionary:

  1. The point at which something springs into being or from which it derives or is obtained.
  2. The point of origin, such as a spring, of a stream or river.
  3. One that causes, creates, or initiates; a maker.
  4. One, such as a person or document, that supplies information: A reporter is only as reliable as his or her sources.
  5. Physics. The point or part of a system where energy or mass is added to the system.

Each one of those definitions can hold meaning within a marriage.  Each one can be a point of blessing for a couple, depending on how they view their roles and how they are seeking to honor one another and Jesus.  The beautiful part about the word is that when it’s applied to the passage about mutual submission, it can take on a whole new dimension.

Personally, being kind of a geek, I like definition number 5.  It suits us well, as my husband and I both score major Nerd Points, both in our marriage and in life generally.  If marriage is a system, then it certainly makes sense that “mass” would have been added when we entered into it!

I would encourage you, with your spouse, to engage with this concept of “source” in marriage.  What does it mean for you?  How does it work in practical terms?  In what ways does this make you feel either more free or more restricted?  I hope that in digging deeper, you will be able to find peace with how your relationship works.

This post is part of the Week of Mutuality led by Rachel Held Evans.  You can follow the other posts on Twitter with #mutuality2012.  Check it out, there are some fantastic writers weighing in on the topic.  On Friday, I will highlight my favorites.  Look for Rachel’s faves in her usual Sunday Superlatives.

What if a man can’t lead?

I’m continuing my posts this week on the subject of mutuality.  Today’s topic: Exceptions to the rule.

Whenever I hear the words “Biblical womanhood” I want to do several things:  Throw something large, heavy, and preferably breakable; scream; hide until whoever said it goes away.

I understand that a certain kind of relationship is to be expected when you take a particular female personality type and a particular male personality type and put them together in a marriage.  And you know what?  That’s awesome for them that they have figured out how to make their marriage work, honoring their natural styles.  But I’d rather they keep their opinions about my marriage to themselves, thanks.  My marriage isn’t built on obeying a certain set of rules, goals, traits, or what have you.

Anyway, one thing that always concerns me is the number of people who are left out of the equation.  I can handle it.  I’m used to being a non-traditional woman among traditional Christians.  Story of my life, for many, many years.  No, I’m more frustrated by the traditional people left out in the cold by people hawking Biblical womanhood.

There are a lot of women who can’t fulfill this role even if they want to.  As one friend put it, “I don’t like hearing all the time about how I’m supposed to submit to my husband.  I don’t have a husband.  Am I supposed to go find one so I can submit to him?”  Another friend asked, “What am I supposed to do?  I’m a single parent.  I have to be both mom and dad to my kids.  Who do I submit to?”

Last night, my husband and I generated a list of people who might have some difficulty with the typical conservative marriage expectations:

  • Women whose husbands have died or abandoned their family
  • Women who have never been married
  • Women whose husbands are ill or injured and unable to “lead” their families
  • Women whose husbands have left the Christian faith and cannot be the spiritual authority
  • Women who became Christians but their husbands did not (see above)
  • Women whose husbands are deep in addiction
  • Women whose husbands are abusive
  • Women whose husbands are doing things that are morally corrupt or illegal
  • Women whose husbands are incarcerated
  • Women whose husbands spend large amounts of time away from home (due to work or military service)

That’s an awful lot of exceptions to the rule.

I am sure that conservative people would have some snappy answer for all of it.  Or else they might say that of course there are exceptions, this applies to “regular” people.  That’s fascinating, but it doesn’t do much to help the people who are in the midst of those situations.  It doesn’t help the woman who has lived her entire marriage being the kind of Biblical wife she believed she should be, and now finds herself without a spiritual rudder because her husband has Alzheimer’s.  It doesn’t help the woman who suddenly finds herself a single mother of three because her husband has left her for another woman.  It doesn’t help the woman who has given her whole life in service to others, believing her highest calling wasn’t marriage but the mission field.  It doesn’t help the woman whose husband returns to her every night, blind drunk.  It doesn’t help the woman whose husband has spent the better part of their marriage beating her and calling her names.

Instead of labeling those women “irregular” and “exceptions to the rule,” why not make a point of helping those women gain strength in Christ?  I know there are support groups for people dealing with life issues.  However, shouldn’t the church be another place they can turn?  There are more women in these situations than you know.  Instead of reminding them of the ways they are different from all the “normal” families, where Dad is the strong head of the household, can’t we do more to empower those people who don’t fit that mold?

If we really want to build healthy marriages and healthy families, we need to start by removing language that says or implies that proper, Biblical marriage is the pinnacle of existence.  We need to talk more about how families can be strengthened in God-honoring and people-honoring ways that have less to do with gender roles and more to do with respecting each person’s needs within the home.  When we can do that, we will bring hope and healing for all women, regardless of relationship status.

This post is part of the Week of Mutuality led by Rachel Held Evans.  You can follow the other posts on Twitter with #mutuality2012.  Check it out, there are some fantastic writers weighing in on the topic.  On Friday, I will highlight my favorites.  Look for Rachel’s faves in her usual Sunday Superlatives.

What would happen if I didn’t submit to my husband?

I didn’t grow up in a family culture that promoted “Biblical womanhood.”  My mother had been an evangelical Christian, and then spent many years as a non-believer/agnostic/possibly something else before returning to the church.  My father is a non-religious Jew.  Throughout my childhood, I attended a Unitarian church.  In Sunday school, we drew pictures of what God might look like, watched secular kids’ movies, and ate popcorn.  We didn’t learn much about what men and women are supposed to be like or how husbands and wives are supposed to make marriage work.

When I became a Christian at age 14, I had no idea what was in the Bible.  My mother had a dusty, old King James Bible on her shelf, which I promptly took out and started to read.  I began with the Psalms.  At my church youth group, we were studying Revelation (our leaders did a fantastic job with it, by the way; a post for another time).  I didn’t learn much about Biblical womanhood there, either.

The denomination my church belonged to, PCUSA (Presbyterian), allows women to be elders and pastors.  I don’t recall much about Biblical womanhood or wives and husbands over my years there.  Maybe I tuned it out, or maybe it didn’t make sense to me, but it didn’t register.

Until I found Ephesians 5.

I read these words:

 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

I didn’t understand them.  So I asked some of the adults at church, “What does this mean, submit?”  They mostly seemed uncomfortable, awkward, like they weren’t sure how to answer that question.  I got everything from “respect your husband” to “do what he says” to “be the kind of wife and mother he wants to come home to” to the considerably more honest “I don’t really know.”  One person said, “We take it to mean that when there is a major life decision, we go with his preference.”

I think I gave up.  In fact, “submission” wasn’t even something my husband and I ever talked about.  He was an avowed feminist, and I’m admittedly a pretty intense and opinionated person, so it never seemed to matter.  We simply did what came very naturally for us:  Talked about everything, worked things out when we disagreed, and based our relationship on mutual respect.  The one time our pastor gave a (rather half-hearted) sermon on submission in marriage, my husband and I ended up talking about how no one ever seemed to be able to define that term clearly.

I have since been exposed to a heck of a lot of conservative teaching on this topic.  Life has a way of doing that, I suppose.  I’ve met a lot more people and read a lot more books since the early days of my Christian faith and my marriage.  In fact, it seems like the older I get, the more I hear about the whole “wifely submission” thing.  Guess what?  No one seems any more clear on it than the people I spoke to at my first church or my college professors or my friends or my former pastor.  It’s still murky.

These days, my big question isn’t “What is submission?”  Instead, it’s “What will happen if I don’t?”

The message has been pretty clear that “bad things” will indeed happen if I don’t become the properly submissive wife I am Biblically meant to be.  I’ve been told that my children will be unhappy due to lack of clear authority; my marriage will suffer and we will be miserable; my children will “turn gay” because they have a gentle, nurturing father and a strong-willed mother.  Our lives will be out of control, because things run more “smoothly” if I show my husband proper (read: their version of) respect.  Our home will be filled with tension and strife.

So far, none of those dire predictions have come true.

Do we have our share of tension?  Sure.  Want to know what my husband and I argue about most?  Just take a wild guess.  It’s none of the usual things couples fight about (money, kids, sex).  Nope.  Our biggest arguments are about differences of opinion on social/political topics.  Not even Biblical interpretation or Christian doctrine—just stupid things.  We’ve learned to work through it, though, and we’ve learned to mutually respect each other’s views.

If your natural personalities mesh with a more conservative view on marriage, and this works to create a loving, happy home, then that is wonderful.  But if you’re like my husband and me, and your natural personalities don’t fit with the conservative view, you have nothing to be ashamed of.  What’s more important is that you build in your home a culture of respect.  There are a thousand—a million—ways to do this.  Start by applying what Jesus called the Greatest Commandments: Love God, love others.  All the rest will fall in place.

This post is part of the Week of Mutuality led by Rachel Held Evans.  You can follow the other posts on Twitter with #mutuality2012.  Check it out, there are some fantastic writers weighing in on the topic.  On Friday, I will highlight my favorites.  Look for Rachel’s faves in her usual Sunday Superlatives.