Archive for April, 2014

A Response To Doug Wilson’s “Seven Theses On Submission”

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Doug Wilson had quite a blogging day yesterday, writing an absurdly convoluted and deeply offensive take on “reds” (noble, God-fearing people like him) and “blues” (pomo sentimentalist whining bedwetters, or pretty much anyone not like him) and the retreat of the reds in the face of the blues overbearing need to control the game — all of which was in response to an article by Jonah Goldberg on “microoffenses” claimed by feminists, anti-racism activists, and others who both Goldberg and Wilson find to be altogether too easily hurt, sensitive-feelings-wise.

For that, I called him a preeningly belligerent ass who fairly pours contempt on others he perceives to be worthy of it, and acknowledged freely that I feel great contempt for the things he writes, says, and represents.  No surprise there, and for me, no problem.  I’ve dealt with Wilson for 12 years now; it’s not like I’m still trying to get a read on his character.   Nope.  That character became pretty clear within about three months, in much the same way your younger sister’s smarmy boyfriend continues to confirm your initial dislike by behaving in an increasingly obnoxious manner.  He may have started by shaking Dad’s hand, but by the time he drives up onto your lawn and honks the horn for her, you’re pretty sure he’s the cad you always thought him to be.

Doug Wilson’s kind of like that.

But his second post of the day, Seven Theses on Submission, deserves a more pointed and lengthier response, because in appearing to be more reasonable than a silly analogy of a poorly-officiated basketball game, it’s much more dangerous.  Wilson, who, like me, has no formal theological training, nevertheless ought to know better than he appears to before offering his take — which, like everything else he writes, is corrective, not simply instructive, albeit less sneeringly condescending — on an issue that has become one of the corrupt branches of the poison tree of patriarchy in the Church.

I’ll be clear on something before I begin:  I submit to my husband and have for the nearly 30 years of our marriage.  Let all the masculinist Reformed world celebrate — until, that is, they read the rest of this, which is that Jeff also submits to me.  This word, “submission,” means going out of one’s way to honor the other or give up one’s own preference or will for that of another’s.  They might, these robust tenders of the massive but rotten tree of patriarchy, quiet down a bit at that, although a clear reading of Ephesians 5 would soothe them, as submission in marriage is intended, as is love in marriage, to be entirely mutual.

Perhaps another pint of oatmeal stout will help them wrap their minds around it all.

Beyond that, I will humbly say that as part of my walk and witness as a Christian, I gladly, eagerly, submit to my sons, my mother-in-law, my friend Bonnie, the clerk at Safeway, the woman at Safeway behind me with only a jug of milk as I begin to unload my full cart but then let her go first, and the telemarketer who interrupts my dinner.  I’m not picky; in fact, my submission is indiscriminate — I am secure in who I am, and so I can give up something, if only a kind word, to anyone I deem reasonable enough to receive my submission.  It’s kind of my thing, submission is, and so how could I have any problem with Wilson’s insistence on it in my life?

Because Wilson doesn’t understand Biblical submission, which makes him an untrustworthy exegete of those Biblical passages that prescribe it.

Wilson is so entrapped and enraptured by masculine privilege that he can barely pour his morning coffee, I think, without finding in the flow either an example of or confirmation of the patriarchy that bestows privilege on him and is the lens through which he sees all things. Surely he knows that the practice of something in reality is not limited by its etymology — the parents of his classically-educated Christian students deserve better if he doesn’t.  He dismisses the problem of patriarchy by defining it — good for him! — by breaking it down into simple Latin.  But patriarchy is not, in this world, simple “father rule,” as he insists, but is the sinful practice of one male exercising dominion over anyone, females AND those males he deems to be “less-than” he is. This isn’t what we get when we look for the Latin in the word, but it is what we get when we see the effects of patriarchy in the world.  And one of those effects is that male theologians and those pretending to be male theologians too often practice an exegetical filtration that results in simply understood passages being reinterpreted through the grid of patriarchy.  This is where he errs, and errs grievously.

My objection to his Seven Theses can be boiled down to Two Refutations:  One, he wrongly makes submission the provenance and prerogative of wives, which is not as Scripture describes it, and, two, the patriarchal Church’s insistence on maintaining this patriarchal view of submission is exactly the kind of bad example — bad testimony — the Apostle he quotes warns us not to demonstrate to an unbelieving world.

Biblical submission is NEVER sex-dependent; it is ALWAYS as mutual, inside and outside of marriage, as love is.  Within marriage and within the Body of Christ, and, ideally, in a Gospel-saturated world, strong and secure people will, in strength and security, humbly and gladly give up their preferences, rights, and will to ALL of those around them with whom they are in relationship.  My husband will cheerfully go to a Greek restaurant rather than the Chinese one he prefers, because he loves me and has — and this is crucial — nothing to lose, no security or identity to be weakened, by letting me choose.  He knows, because our submission is mutual, that another time, we’ll go to the movie he wants to see and miss out on mine.  But he also, unlike Wilson, understands that submission is not a marriage-only thing, which allows him, as the owner of the company, to willingly “step down” and do an employee’s job for him if that employee, that “person he’s in relationship with,” needs him to.  And he has no difficulty whatsoever with my deciding that the jug-of-milk-holder behind my heavily-laden cart at the grocery store shouldn’t have to wait for me — I can step aside; I lose nothing by doing so and I gain the knowledge that I’m sowing seeds of humility, love, and tenderness in the world.

Ahh, I can hear a chorus of Wilson fanboys saying, of course you should let the one behind you go first!  That’s not what we’re talking about, they say — we’re talking about MARRIAGE, where, presumably, the gentleness and kindness inherent in the practice of submission outside of it must be shoehorned into a rigid, sex-defined practice within it.  THAT, sayeth the fanboys and beholden toadies, is “what the Bible means” by “submission.”

Uhhh, no.  It’s not.

The go-to text on submission in marriage, Ephesians 5, does actually, really, honestly, say that a wife should submit to her husband.  It really does — with no mention, in the text, of his submitting to her.  But any masculinist triumph here is short-lived, because verse 21, which defines the conduct — submission and love within marriage — that follows.  And what does that framing verse say?

“Be submissive to one another out of reverence to Christ.”  Only after that initial, context-setting verse, does the Apostle continue with behavior in marriage:  “Wives should submit to heir husbands as to the Lord (v. 22)” and, in v. 25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church …”  Now, willfully ignoring v. 21, which insists on mutual submission, one to another, and not simply in marriage, fulfills a need to promote masculinism in the Church; but doing so violates the text’s insistence that submission, like love, is to be mutual, one to another, as equals, inside and outside of marriage.  How can I be so sure?  Because I have yet to meet any minister of the Gospel who prescribes, with a straight and context-denying face, that ONLY men exercise love in marriage (like Christ, and so “as a Christian”), and that ONLY women exercise submission within marriage (“as unto (for, in service of) the Lord”).  The metaphor that follows (v. 25-31) are, as Paul acknowledges in v. 31, a “mystery,” something not simply hard to understand, but something, metaphor and hyperbole, from which we ought not derive rigid behavioral expectations that end up, in appearing to be faithful to the metaphor, utterly at odds with the clear teaching of the framing verse.

Of course, patriarchal pastors love the metaphor in Ephesians 5, because it appears to prescribe a Christlike role of the husband in sanctifying the wife, which, if taken literally, violates the entirety of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That’s what metaphor tends to do — it offers pictures, not theology.  A true theology of literal conduct prescribed in marriage, which is just not nearly so fun for patriarchs as the husband-as-Redeemer mist of metaphor, is 1 Corinthians 7, in which the same Apostle, Paul, offers a point-by-point, “as she does, so must he; as he does, so must she,” refutation of unilateral submission.  Paul gives us half a dozen or more instances of mutuality that he insists be present in Christian marriages.  Only in a sin-soaked world poisoned by patriarchy would 1 Corinthians and the mutuality it both describes and prescribes be shunted aside, when talking about marriage, for the metaphor-heavy-yet-still-mutuality-teaching passage in Ephesians 5.  In this, Wilson prefers a sin-soaked world untouched by Gospel liberation. Pity him, but oppose him.

My second point is that every time Paul emphasizes a wife’s submission to her husband — who, in first-century Hebrew culture was likely the only male she would have cause or opportunity to engage with day to day — he does in the context of the TESTIMONY OF THE CHURCH in an unbelieving environment.  In a dichotomous world whose Greek influence was one of creeping Gnosticism, wherein women were often careless and wrongly gyno-centric in their religious practices to the point of licentiousness, and a Hebrew world where women had the promise of equality and freedom in Christ Jesus but whose working-out of that Gospel freedom was constrained by the patriarchy of centuries of Hebrew culture (a patriarchy that was the firstfruits of the Fall portrayed in Genesis 3), Paul’s concern was simple:  Don’t make the teaching of Christ look bad to the watching world.  He didn’t want women engaging in temple prostitution or teaching that women were in every way superior to men, and, seemingly unknown to Wilson, he also didn’t want men to treat women like subordinate chattel.  With his call for mutual submission within marriage and outside of it already established, the Apostle focused on not making the excesses of licentiousness — a false “freedom” — and the excesses of patriarchy — a false “dominion” — hinder the message of Christ.  In a culture wrestling with the sudden emergence of religiously hysterical and licentious gyno-centrists, it is reasonable that among his edicts to the Church would be that those women cool down and behave in a manner respectable and even honorable in the surrounding culture. How the Church appeared to the world was his primary goal, always.

It clearly isn’t Wilson’s.

The Church, already crippled by functioning with its Female hand tied behind its back, attracts derision, scorn, and even hatred when it insists on patriarchal views that are an offense — a needless offense — to the world around it, where women have made gains, but never enough gains, toward full equality in the social and legal and commercial world they live in.  That’s the world the feminist Savior Jesus Christ envisioned for women — no, created women for.  His death and resurrection lay the axe to the root of the patriarchy that drenched — poisoned — Female and Male after the Fall.  That the Church that bears the name of the One whose human-ness, not his male-ness, redeems us continues to defend the masculinist interpretation of human conduct in such a way as to ensure masculine privilege is an abomination.  It guarantees that generations of women and men who care about them will look away from the Church.  After all, why would any woman who experiences freedom, righteous freedom, in the world outside the doors of the Church be keen to give it up, and give it up wrongly, at the insistence of the males who benefit from her subjugation within those doors?  It is reasonable to ask if Wilson and other patriarchs’ wrongful theology is employed in the service of benefiting their own privilege, or the continued exclusion of females from those religious and social institutions that currently feed that privilege.

Either way, the sex-specific teaching on submission that Wilson and others employ serves the cause of the enemy of all Truth, in addition to adding to their own security and comfort.  It is time for that great army of women, the army whose mothers were Deborah, Miriam, Mary, Jael, Abigail, Hulda, the Apostle Junia, and Phoebe, to rise up in opposition to it.  Submission is not the enemy.  The sex segregation of submission is.  May it be forever banished from the minds, hearts, and souls of those who name Christ Lord and Savior, and may our sisters unite in its overthrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Where Have I Been? On Facebook …

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Because I have a couple of Facebook “friends” who are Wilson fanboys, I find that I’ve been spending a great deal of time on that venue, battling them and calling out our local Bishop of Blather when he tosses out epithets like “Gaytards,” or when his protege Toby Sumpter avers that society is called to applaud “men anally raping each other.”  It’s been a busy time.

It takes a lot of time to juggle the pokes and barbs of the toadies who can’t find anything wrong, ever, with anything their Master says — remember, on Facebook, you engage not just with your “friends,” but with theirs.  And when I comment on Wilson’s blog, as happened in early March, it often provokes an avalanche of response, much of it involving questions about my salvation and comments about what a dark and dreary place this blog is.  But the reality is that I have more readers on FB than I do on Prevailing Winds, and while I’ll always keep PW for longer posts, I find that I reach more people these days via Facebook.

If you want to be part of the conversation over there, send me a Facebook friend request.  That I may not really know you or even like you wouldn’t be reason enough to reject you; I’ll engage with anyone, pretty much, and even though FB allows for pseudonyms, I’ll still be in the fray.

And lest you think I’ve mellowed, let me say this:  Doug Wilson and his ministerial enterprises are a blight on the Gospel, and I’ll confront them at every point.