Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gender Roles and Responsibility – Part 2

In Part 1 I said, “Ultimately, we are all responsible for ourselves and our own actions.”  This means we cannot be ultimately responsible for anyone but ourselves.  Even with our children, our goal is to teach them self-responsibility so that they can become full adults.  Responsibility for ourselves is foundational to maturity and emotional health—but feeling a burden of responsibility for things we ultimately cannot be responsible for, is foundational to dysfunction.  And that includes responsibility for other people.    

Galatians 6:2 (NASB) says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” The context is helping one another with our individual needs, temptations and stumbling blocks.  Then Galatians 6:5 goes on to say, “For each one shall bear his own load.”  This is in the context of our life work in the kingdom.  The word “burdens” in verse 2 is the Greek word “baros,” which means difficulties, troubles.  This word is usually used in the Bible to refer to daily, temporary sorts of loads, such as problems we face.  But the word in verse 5 translated “load” is the Greek word “phortion,” which usually referred to the freight load of a ship or other large job-related load.  Christ used this word when He said, “My yoke is easy and My burden (phortion) is light.”  Matt. 11:30.  I believe the juxtaposition of the two sentences, just three verses apart in Galatians 6: “Bear one another’s burdens. . . Each one shall bear his own load,” is saying that while we can help one another with our daily troubles, we are, at the end of the day, each responsible only for our own life and our own life’s work-- and no one else’s.   

In the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30) each servant was responsible only for the sum of money he himself was given by the master.  The master did not ever question a servant about money he had given to another servant.  1 Corinthians 3:12-15 also shows each person being responsible for what he or she builds on the foundation of Christ; no one else can build for her.   We have duties towards others that we need to fulfill (see 1 Timothy 5:8, noting the gender-inclusive context, especially of verses 4 & 16), but those duties are part of our own life’s work.  Taking another’s duties and responsibilities on ourselves as if they were our own, or making someone else’s life our own responsibility, can drive us to mental and physical exhaustion.  

So let’s look at the underlying messages within some male-hierarchical Christian teachings.  Do they work within this principle of self-responsibility, or not?

I’ll start with the men.  Men are taught that to be a man is to be born a leader.  They are given final power to make all the decisions for the marriage and the family.   Here’s one way this message works out in practice. The purpose of the recently released movie Courageous is, according to its own website, to encourage men to be “bold and intentional leaders of their homes, marriages and children.”   But part of the text of the "Resolution" male movie-goers are encouraged to sign after seeing the movie says, “I do solemnly resolve before God to take full responsibility for myself, my wife and my children.” 

“Full” responsibility for his wife and children.  This is more than simply being a “bold and intentional leader.”  A man who signs this Resolution will certainly want to teach his children to love God with all their hearts, minds and strength, as the text goes on to say—but what if he does teach them, but they choose otherwise?  Whose responsibility is it?  The responsibility of the man who has signed the Resolution.  Or what if it’s only that the way his children love God with ”all their minds” doesn’t look like what their father thinks it should look like?  Suppose, for instance, they decide to be theistic evolutionists instead of young-earth Creationists?  Whose responsibility is it to decide just how they should love God with “all their minds”?  You guessed it—their father’s.   The Resolution's text says he promises to train his children to “live responsibly.”  But it never asks him to promise to teach them to become responsible for themselves.  And what about his wife, who as an adult should already be fully responsible for herself?  The man takes full responsibility for her also.   This is a recipe for dysfunction.  The only way to be able to take full responsibility for someone else is to control them.   Men who follow this Resolution as it is worded,  must become micromanagers and authoritarians—to do otherwise would be to abdicate “full responsibility” for some of their family’s actions.

I want to emphasize that not all complementarian families fall into these kinds of dysfunctional responsibility issues.  I hope that many men who sign this Resolution will acknowledge the impossibility of fulfilling it, give themselves and their loved ones over to Christ, and let Him bring them peace and freedom.   But the text of the Resolution actually says one human being can and should take “full responsibility” for others.  This is the idea that is being spread as part of the gender-roles doctrines being taught in the movie Courageous.

Here’s another teaching I have heard:  that in a Christian marriage the man is to his wife as Christ is to the church.    Ephesians 5:26-27 says that Christ sanctifies the church, washing her with the water of the word, and presents her to Himself.  Therefore, according to this teaching, it is the husband’s job to sanctify the wife, washing her with the water of the word, to present her to Christ.  This is the idea behind the teaching that the husband is the “prophet, priest and king” of the home, even as Christ is the Prophet, Priest and King of the church.  Gone is the Protestant understanding of the priesthood of all believers.  The husband steps between the wife and Christ as intermediary.  Her spiritual cleansing and growth becomes her husband’s responsibility, rather than her own before Christ.  Fortunately, to the best of my knowledge no one has yet taken this passage to mean that the husband is his wife’s Savior, even though the passage directly says in verse 23 that Christ is the Savior of the church who is His body.  To apply this “man is to wife as Christ is to church” teaching consistently, would mean to make the husband savior of the wife!  But even though these teachings do not actually go that far, is a human man really capable even of being his wife’s sanctifier?  Is she not to trust Christ for this?  Can she not walk with her Lord as men do?  Is this not giving a finite human being responsibility to bear another’s load, contrary to Galatians 6:5?

Going on, then, to the woman.  Men are called to be husbands and fathers—but in addition to these callings, God also has individual callings for men.   Men relate to God with this understanding, knowing that they are valuable to God not just for their roles in other’s lives, but for the work they themselves are called to do.  But what happens to a human being, made in the image of God, when you tell her that her true purpose and calling is as a wife and mother?  What happens when you tell a woman that her true purpose in life is to support a man in his calling, raise her sons to their callings, and teach her daughters to support their own man in his calling someday?  What happens when she feels she has no right to seek God for an individual calling of her own?

I used to believe that as a woman, I was born to dedicate myself to the fulfillment of a man’s responsibility to his calling, to dedicate myself to his life’s work and his well-being in that life-work, and to give myself to my children.  Though I worked outside the home, I considered that job of no real importance other than to help with the family finances.  Though I aspired to write books, I considered that to be a sideline that I might get to follow someday, but of no great importance in the scheme of things.  In other words, contrary to 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, I did not build on my own foundation in Christ , but gave myself to building on my family’s foundations, even to the neglect of my own.  Contrary to Galatians 6:2-5, rather than just helping with family burdens, their life-loads were just as much mine to carry as theirs.  

Did this bless my husband?  No.  It drove him crazy!   If he ever felt less than completely happy and fulfilled, I felt that I had failed.  His emotions, his well-being, were my responsibility.  He was not free to have ups and downs, or to get upset at life's troubles.  If he did, I blamed myself. 

If a woman’s life is entirely subsumed in the life’s work of other people, she comes to feel herself responsible, not for herself, but for one or more others.  If her man is not uniformly strong and confident—guess who feels responsible?  She does.   If her children are not perfectly obedient, content and focused on God, guess who feels responsible?  She does.  Even if her man has taken the Resolution and pledged full responsibility for her and the kids—the only one whose well-being and happiness the wife does not feel responsible for, is her own.  In fact, she is often given the subtle message that to think about herself at all is selfishness and sin.

Check out this light-hearted story at No Longer Quivering about a wife whose marriage is now free from these expectations.  One morning recently, her husband poured himself a bowl of cereal, not realizing that in the Southern spring weather, sugar ants had invaded the cupboard:

Outraged my darling was, scowling and frowning, showing me the bowl and complaining he might have eaten a few ants. He was upset. I looked at the bowl, looked at him and laughed before telling him that it was okay, the ants would just add a little needed protein to his breakfast. Plus they are organic.

But back in my old submitting like crazy fundamentalist days I would have apologized, whipped that bowl from his hands, washed it, sterilized it, rushed to the store to get fresh cereal, apologized again for not being a proper enough wife to keep ants out of his cereal and served him a fresh bowl. And I would have done it meekly and humbly.

The wife and husband are now both able to relax and joke about the situation.  But think about what she’s saying about her “submitting like crazy fundamentalist days” – it is a perfect illustration of dysfunctional shifting of adult responsibility. The husband is the one who likes this cereal; he eats it; he opens and closes the box. Under the husband-authority paradigm, it is nevertheless the wife’s responsibility that the box gets closed properly so that the ants don’t get in. She has to constantly be checking up on him, following up on his actions as if he were a child. She has to be upset that he didn’t look at his cereal before pouring it (or even before taking a spoonful!), so that he didn’t notice the ants.

While being told that all responsibility in the home is the husband’s, the wife assumes responsibility for her husband so that he is absolved from being a functioning adult in the realm of eating breakfast.

Isn’t it wonderful and refreshing for a wife to be able to place the responsibility for eating ants squarely on the shoulders of the person who actually was careless enough to eat them?

I don’t believe it is God’s plan that the responsibility for a man’s happiness rests not on himself but on his wife, while the responsibility for a woman’s walk with God rests not on her but on her husband.  And as for the children—what sometimes happens is that their parents come to feel personally responsible to the extent that it is up to the parents that the children come to Christ.  Rather than showing them the love of Christ and trusting them to Him, the parents fear that any tiny slip-up in discipline, or any input into their children’s lives from a non-believer, or any deviation from devotions and churchgoing, will result in their children’s path straight to hell.  It's fear-based parenting.

Fear like this is often based on feeling responsibility we know in our hearts we are incapable of handling.  Only Christ can save.  Only Christ can sanctify.  Only Christ can bring fulfillment and well-being.  To try to take responsibilities that we cannot fulfill, is to tie ourselves into knots inside.  And that can make us very unpleasant people on the outside. 

Again, I’m not saying that all non-egalitarian marriages fall into these traps.  But I am saying that the potential is there, whenever we give too much power to one human being and relegate all others to a lesser status.  Romans 12:3 says, "Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but think of yourselves with sober judgment."    We need to recognize the extent and the limits of human responsibility, and of human power.  Not to do so hurts everyone-- men, women and children alike. 


Anonymous said...

You've hit many nails on the head in this post. I have often noticed the subtle message that men are called to be family people AND other things, while women believe that seeking callings outside the family is selfish.

Double-standards, plain and simple. And not really based on anything Biblical.

PLTK said...

There is a lot of nice thought here--I will have to read again and digest some more. Love the talk about responsibility. Courageous -- both the movie and the song -- has really bothered me for some of the reasons elaborated here.

shadowspring said...

"If her children are not perfectly obedient, content and focused on God, guess who feels responsible? She does."

I am mulling over a long post about the true motivation of those immersed in the American fundagelical culture (including home school). It seems to me that the main motivation in life for those who are completely immersed into Christian culture comes down to this:

Avoid public shame.

When my daughter did not fit the cheerful obedient smiley faced image of the fresh scrubbed Christian home schooled teen on the cover of whatever home schooling magazine, I felt shame.

And if I ever managed to shake it, some well meaning home school mom would pout it on and rub it in, to help motivate me to try harder, no doubt.

My depressed daughter, dressed in black, face expressionless, always lagging behind and dragging her heels, was unacceptable. Obviously we weren't very good Christian parents.

People told me to come down on her harder, but I could see her heart was fragile and I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I had to make a choice: eschew shame by rejecting my daughter, or embrace my daughter and the shame the church poured on us both for her non-conforming life.

I chose love, and shame. I chose to bear the shame, and the eventual ostracization that comes with it, rather than betray my child's fragile heart.

In the long run, it was the best thing that could possibly have happened to our family. As Rob Bell wrote, "Love Wins!" =D

Kristen said...

My daughter went through a depressed period too. For her it was puberty-related; I think a lot of girls go through it. I love the way you handled it with yours, Shadowspring. My own church never shamed me about my daughter's lack of cheerfulness. We had long since left the fundamentalist group by then.

I will say, though, that "avoid public shame" was really not my main motivation as a fundamentalist. It was "please/placate those in authority." For me this motive came from deep in my own child-of-alcoholics past. I conflated placating human authority with pleasing God. But the public shame thing was to me more of a consequence of failure, not failure in itself. Even without the public shame, I was ashamed enough of myself for any failure, that I hardly needed more than that to keep me in line. The shame was a symptom, not the source, of the problem. The source of the problem was that my self-worth was bound up in being pleasing. Add this "please authoriy" inner need to an authoritarian, hierarchical form of religion, and you had the perfect storm. I was a model fundamentalist-- stressed, fearful, and compliant. So I don't think "avoid public shame" as a prime motive fits. At least, it didn't fit me.

iseetheglory said...

Hi Kristin,

My pastor came to visit us (husband and I) recently when this issue came to a head for me. He said what you are saying, that each individual will be accountable to God and responsible for themselves and their choices, in the kind of examples you give.

My understanding is also that rescuing a person from their responsibilities, or the consequences of their choice, is the essence of co-dependance, dysfunction or enmeshment - for a psychological term. Such relational dynamics are not of God. So your example about the ants in the breakfast cereal is exactly that. The wife would once have rescued the husband from the consequences of his choice to not close the cereal packet.

I was also once in a relationship like that as a young Christian but we went to very good pre marriage counseling where the counselor pointed me to Proverbs 19.19 to break the curse of blindness for me about the situation. The verse is saying that if you rescue a bad tempered man from the consequences of his anger, you will do it again. The principle of rescuing someone from the consequences of their irresponsible behaviour was here exposed to me, to be folly.

But now I am deeply convinced, that these dynamics, if justified from scripture represent an abuse of male headship - the doctrine and practice - not the authentic expression of it.

Male headship, whenever I had heard it taught, until recently always added that little bit more - that little extra twist which would make it ever so slightly demeaning to women and justifying of male privilege. The teaching I heard always seemed to go beyond what scripture actually says and impose restrictions. And like a drip, drip, drip of irritating solvent falling on a layer of paint, the solvent eventually bore right through - to my heart and I reacted in crisis - questioning all this male headship hocus pocus - and rightly so because now my conviction that male headship is God's design, is now from scripture and not from traditional patriarchal interpretations being imposed.

My pastor went on to say, that there are responsibilities he has in his home, which his wife will not be held responsible for. So if the home is a unit, greater than the sum of its parts, there is a role he'll have to give account for and he did summarize what that is and 're' embracing this doctrine from scripture has turned our marriage around.

See I have sat under great lecturers in bible colleges and even some pastors. These men opened God's Word to me. They were instruments who revealed His truth. They inspired and propelled me into God's Word and they fed me. They brightened my mind and gave me theological tools to think with that I use all the time. They simply empowered me to know and love God more. I would be so excited to hear whatever they had to say next. It was always wonder filled. Do you know what I mean?

See, they were leaders. They led me out of many forms of intellectual darkness and protected me from so many errors. They were protectors. If husband led their wives in this manner, if they opened God's Word to their wives and satisfied with good spiritual food as providers of it, would some other aspects of male headship seem so abrasive?

It is this kind of leading I believe God had in mind when he designed leadership in the church and Christian home to be male. Well I read the bible for myself - every day. God speaks to me without any human intercessor - absolutely. But do I come close to what those how those lecturers were able to expose God's heart to me? No. They fed me in a way I have never been able to provide for myself and I am an intelligent woman with a gift of knowledge. It was simply the best thing out and would I submit to such a man who fed me in such a way? Apart from my sinful nature - no doubt.

iseetheglory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
iseetheglory said...

I have found several posts and comments helpful to critique traditional interpretations and even traditions themselves. On the majority of stuff except the ultimate conclusion, we're on the same page.

I don't believe my husband is the high priest of our home and I do not believe he or my pastor for that matter, is a go between between God and me or me and God - no way. They have responsibilities to lead me to solid spiritual food as shepherds. Shepherds lead - patriarchs control.

Also if my husband and I have a common vision - a sense of how we as a family are called to serve God - and he makes a decision regarding how that vision will best be realised - even if he's wrong - is it not an act of loving service? He would consult me but take the ultimate responsibility off my shoulders. If, on the other hand, husband and wife do NOT have a common vision, especially one that takes into account both of their unique gifts, interests etc amongst other things and the husband is authoritative re making decisions which are foolish or selfish, what an empty distortion of true Christian leadership. I think we throw the baby out with the bathwater if look at proliferation of that dynamic and throw out the doctrine of male headship altogether.

Kristen said...

Iseetheglory, if I'm hearing you correctly, this is what I'm hearing. You were questioning the male authority doctrines, and this had come to a crisis in your life, and now your pastor has come along and given you his interpretation of the Bible, and based on that, you have gone from questioning to "deeply convinced" just on the basis of what this man said. Well, if you are deeply convinced, there's not a lot I can say-- but I might point out that the Proverbs also say that one person's testimony will seem right, until another comes along and cross-examines him-- and in another place, that "he who answers a matter before he hears it (meaning here's all sides), it is folly and shame to him."

I understand the relief you feel from having this matter resolved in your own mind, in a way that relieves the conflict that was developing between you and your husband. And if your husband is a good leader and you like having him lead, as an egalitarian I have no quarrel with that. By all means, let your marriage work the way that suits the two you best! But I do feel that my husband and I should also be able to have our marriage work in the way that suits us best-- and quite frankly, we are much happier now that he (who is not gifted as a spiritual leader) no longer feels under constant pressure to be something God never made him to be. And I, who am not actually a spiritual leader either, but have strengths in areas he does not (and vice versa) can feel free to use my gifts to the fullest in those areas, even if it means I am sometimes taking the lead.

You see, I have read the arguments of both sides and examined the scriptures too-- and I feel that male headship is not actually supported by the Scriptures and is not the "baby in the bathwater." The baby in the bathwater is the individuality of each man and woman, each with their Kingdom gifts-- and the used bathwater that needs to be emptied out, is the forcing of God's children into boxes according to what males and females are supposed to be.

I do understand what you're saying about how good it is to have the scriptures expounded by a spiritual leader. But if what you're saying is true, that such leadership was designed by God to be male-- then why aren't all Christian males who don't feel called to celibacy, gifted with spiritual leadership? Why aren't all Christian women who don't feel called to celibacy, gifted with spiritual "followership," if you will? Why, for instance, am I actually much better at expounding on the scriptures than my husband is?

Could it be possible that someone could teach the scriptures in such a way as to bless you as you describe-- and that person could be a woman? Is there something about being female that renders a person incapable of being a teacher like that? Is there something about being male that anoints a man for what you call "true Christian leadership"? When a man and a woman are really trying to have a marriage such as you described, with male headship, and they both feel like square pegs in round holes-- is it just that they're doing it wrong? That if they'd just embrace who God made them to be, it would work? Then what happens to individuality?

Over the next month or two I will be reposting parts of essays I have written elsewhere, on male headship, the nature of woman, Bible interpretation, and so on. If you're interested in hearing both sides, and not just your pastor's, please keep visiting. And again, I'm not saying you and your husband have to change the way your marriage works best for you. I'm just saying it's ok to let other people's marriages work differently than that, without concluding that they're missing God's will.

Kristen said...

I also want to add, in case I don't seem to be painting my own husband in a very positive light, that he is a brilliant man with an amazing ability to cut to the heart of a matter and see what the issues are. He is strong and capable, a terrific father, and he has an excellent knowledge of the Bible-- I have learned a lot from him. There are many times when he has cleared a whole complex issue up for me with just a few well-thought-out words. He has an amazing knowledge of history and many other topics, and he often takes the lead, especially in areas where I lack strengths that he has. And we had a good marriage even when we believed in male headship. But co-leadership is really working for us in ways that male headship never did.

I did say several times in my original post that not all complementarian couples were having problems like the ones I described. But I maintain that the problem is not just that male headship is being done wrong, and if it were done right, none of these problems would arise. I maintain that the potential for these kinds of problems is there whenever one person is given power over another based on a factor like gender.

If you'd rather just agree to disagree and move on, I will understand and wish you well. But I'd encourage you to keep exploring these issues and hearing all the different arguments.

iseetheglory said...

Hi Kristin,

I surely don't know ALL the arguments about this issue but I have certainly explored it in my Christian walk using this blog and several other sites your blog is linked to plus Wayne Grudem's book and more. At one point, I was most persuaded, as in the Proverb, by the egalitarian argument.

We convinced me 'back' (I say back because I was complimentarian then left it, and have truly returned to what I never truely knew before), is not what my pastor said - but what happened when my pastor and his wife came round was a profound experience than began the journey 'back'.

I was SOLD on egalitarianism as the WAY OUT of the social injustice and patriarchal oppression and I put the reasons why to them clearly. For one thing, it was not about difficulty in my marriage that I actually went to them, but rather my struggles in the church with a 'spirit of patriarchy' and all that resulted in. So my pastor's wife recommended a great sermon series to listen to by the previous pastor of our church, on gender roles. The series is one thing that helped me come 'home' to a complimentary position again. I can give you a link if you're interested. It laid out the differences between a complimentary position and a patriarchal position in a way I just hadn't quite seen before.

In my relationship we were struggling with TRADITIONAL leadership/'followership' roles at one point. We do NOT fit much church tradition. I am the theologian of us and he does not have a gift of teaching. He is extremely warm and empathetic but with a cool head. He is a very patient man and has the gift of faith - meaning a greater measure than normal in many situations which makes him pretty unflappable. He manages our home gently like a diplomat. He leads with the unique talents he has - and that is what God has blessed ever since we accepted that.

So seeing that begin to work in my marriage has been good but what is even better, is being able to take what God says at face value again. I know from the experience that we're discussing doctrine but what it touches on especially for women has huge emotional and spiritual ramifications, so while there is a lot more I could say at a personal level I kinda don't wanna tell it all to he whole world or be pushy:/. But if you were interested in listening to those sermons flick me an e mail. Otherwise, I will probably leave it there. Thanks again, for the 'sharpening' :).

In Him

iseetheglory said...

PS Husband came home and said he doesn't mind if I put online more of our personal experience relating to this issue so even though it could be taken as anecdotal, I'll share some. The pastoral visit precipitated a crisis in my husband also. Like I said he is a very calm person, but when the pastor left, my husband cried and was broken. We only discussed some issues in the church with the pastor but it touched on the big point of contention, and of coarse it related to marriage as well.

Husband said he knew they were right about the complimentary roles because he knew there were responsibilities he had to protect and lead me, which he had not been carrying. It brought him to repentance and this turned things around for us. We started to learn that in order to lead he didn't have to have the gift of teaching or be the theological one. I had a 'vision' that he could lead us the way he ran a shop, and a good manager uses the talents of all employees to reach the common goal. I guess it is slightly different from the example in previous comment about the men who were amazing teachers/preachers in some ways but not in others. My Husband still opens scripture and applies it to our situations and mission and we have support from our church to work that way.

Going down the egalitarian road was a way to escape the pain of not being gifted in traditionally male and female ways, but I never recognized it during that time.

I truly hope that is helpful to someone.

Also, having done a little study, I'm not sure that kephale can't have connotations of both 'authority' and 'source'. There was clearly an alternate word Paul could have used if he wished to convey solely authority, and another word if he'd meant to convey only 'source'. Could it be both?

I think there is a form of authority, but is it more like that of a supervisor, who oversees and guides the work being done, and also does some of the work. Both ultimately have to report to the manager?

Just a thought off the top of my head.

In Him

Kristen said...

Iseetheglory, it seems that your experience is quite different from mine. You see, we lived the complementarian (not patriarchal, certainly) idea in our marriage for years-- and I always knew, deep in my heart, though I denied it to myself, that we were living a lie. I told myself my husband was leading and I was acting as his administrative assistant in the area of finances-- but I knew in my heart that I was really leading, and he deferring to my leadership, in the area of finances (this was after we tried hard to have him manage the finances and both of us were miserable with him doing it). There were areas where he was leading and I deferring to his leadership as well, and I felt good about those areas, but secretly guilty about the areas where I was leading. But trying to make our marriage function with him leading in areas where I was simply the better leader of that area, was just not working.

When I began to study the egalitarian teachings, they made so much more sense to me. Now I was able to read Galatians 3:28-4:6 according to its face value, without watering it down with "this is only about salvation." When I looked at the scriptures that were traditionally used to support male headship, after coming to an understanding of the shared assumptions between the writers and the original audience, the face value actually looked different. What it would have meant to them was different than what it had looked like to me, 2000 years and half the globe distant. So in what sense was I reading the face value?

As far as the word "kephale," I think the important point is that it means "that thing on your neck that has your eyes and ears in it." Paul could not have used a different word because he was making a metaphor of the unity of the head and the body-- and that metaphor of unity, along with an understanding of how Paul and his original audience understood the body and the head to function together, must govern our interpretation of the use of the word in Eph 5. I find that reading it the same way it is used a chapter earlier in Eph 4-- that the head is the source of nourishment and provision for the body (which is what they believed, and is the role Christ is fulfilling towards the church in Eph 4) makes the most sense, both in its literal and historical contexts.

If your husband learned that he should be taking more leadership in the family and working to protect you, that's wonderful. I merely differ that this is directly tied to his Y chromosome.

Kristen said...

Iseetheglory, do you have any thoughts on this?

I'd be interested, specifically, on how you'd diagram your marriage, looking at the complementarian and egalitarian diagrams in that post.

iseetheglory said...

Hi Kristin,

It is surely a spirit of patriarchy that would make a woman feel guilty for using her talents to manage finances. That is demonic and a perversion of the concept of male headship. I have heard of this and it is no way an authentic expression of the complimentarian position any more than a manager hiring an accountant, according to her abilities means that the accountant is now running the business. A good manager utilizes all the talents of all employees without ceasing to be the manager. The husband is the spiritual head, he needs to be the spiritual leader as Christ is our servant leader. Christ doesn't manifest and micromanage church finances. He calls individuals to do so, so a marriage should similarly reflect this idea.

Galations 3.28 is about the perpetuation of socially unjust privilege, disadvantage and division within the body so it relates to the male privilege perpetuated in patriarchy, not role distinction. Being an eye or an arm is not a disadvantage if that is what one is made to be. Being a head is not an unjust privilege if that is what one is made to be.

What the face value of the male headhship texts meant within the cultural assumptions 2000 years ago, would have looked like a form of freedom for women in their oppression as I understand it for a lot, but definitely not all parts of the cultures.

I like the nourishing and literal bodily interpretation of 'kephale' that you're saying Eph 4 illustrates, however I don't think that text also leaves out the guiding aspect that a head has over a physical body. ie an arm doesn't guide a head, but the other way round and this is universally and timelessly the case. I think the text is illuminating the unity of the head and body more than anything, but the unity and functionality within prescribed role/function for each member. In a human body, a head clearly isn't run by its members. That would be chaos. However the nourishing, vitalizing aspect of a head is appreciated.

At this point you're tearing down a straw man when you're giving examples like the 'finances one' and calling that the biblical complimentarian position. And I'm not attacking you by saying that. I'm saying so much of what is called complimentary in the church, is actually patriarchal and this is what you're attacking. The Bible uses the metaphore of a shepherd, as a leader/guider/protector frequently (not as the only model. It certainly doesn't work taken to the conclusion that women are represented by sheep but it illustrates a form of absolute leading which is not self seeking or controlling so I relate to it and like it).

I was wondering what nationality you are, and what country you live in to try to understand what some the cultural pressure you have, compared to what I have? And what the church is like where you are and where you grew up and how they tend to describe a complimentary role dynamic. It sound pretty similar actually, but maybe there are some differences...

In Him

iseetheglory said...

PS I couldn't resist having a look at what Mark D had to say from the link with the charts. So in this American context it seems he doesn't even describe a patriarchal relationship as one of the likely possible relationship dynamics in American marriages. This a major oversight! Either his oversight or patriarchy doesn't exist in the US. I don't believe its the 2nd! That means he isn't even distinguishing a difference worth mentioning between patriarchy and complimentary marriages. He did make me angry!

If that kinda teaching was all I had to go on, I'd still be an egalitarian. lol

In Him

Kristen said...

Iseetheglory, you want to see a straw man, and so you're seeing one. But you say,

"A good manager utilizes all the talents of all employees without ceasing to be the manager. The husband is the spiritual head, he needs to be the spiritual leader as Christ is our servant leader."

But that IS just the way I thought of it back then. Just the way you are describing. Once we stopped the patriarchal idea that he should be doing the finances, and realized that I should be doing the finances-- I told myself that he was the manager, and I was just like the accountant or adminstrative assistant. I told myself that my husband was the spiritual leader and the one ultimately in charge of the finances. And I came to understand, over time, that I was telling myself a lie. My husband wanted me to be the leader in the area of the finances. I wanted to be the leader in the area of the finances. This business of, "He's the manager, I'm the accountant" was just giving lip service to the doctrinal husband-leadership requirement. But it was in name only. To claim he was the "manager" was denial of reality for the sake of correct doctrine. It was the denial of individuality for the sake of correct doctrine. We couldn't ultimately live like that. We had to be who God made us to be.

And ultimately, it was un-submissive of me and not being his face-to-face strong aid (which is what "help meet" actually means in the Hebrew) to insist that he had to be the manager of our finances, and me the accountant. I was the manager of our finances. I was gifted and able, and I was effectively managing the finances. I was the one telling him what we could spend, and he was the one submitting. I always listened to his input (when he wanted to give it), and we always discussed what we wanted to do with our finances, but I really was the one in charge of them-- and to say otherwise was just trying to squeeze ourselves verbally into roles that didn't fit us.

So please don't try to fit me and my husband into your idea of gender roles. They didn't, and don't, fit us. We don't believe God made us to fit into those boxes.

Kristen said...

As for what you're saying about the head guiding the members of the body-- that's actually a modern, anachronistic understanding of the function of the head, overlaid across the first-century thinking of the author of Ephesians. The way it was understood back then, it was the heart (which is in the chest, not the head), which was considered to be the source of the intellect and the will. The head had the eyes, which were the source of light for the body. It had the ears, which were the source of sound. It had the mouth, which was the source of food for the body. In short, they thought of the head as the source of nourishment and provision for the body, not as the thing that told the body what to do. Wives back then were completely dependent on their husbands for provision of life's necessities. That is what made the metaphor so apt. Would Paul use the same metaphor today? I don't know.

The face value of the so-called "male headship" texts (though there is no word for "headship" at all in the koine Greek, any more than we have a word for "bodyship"), in the cultural assumptions 2000 years ago, meant that the Holy Spirit was leading Christian marriage out of the patriarchy of their surrounding cultures and into the freedom of the saints in the New Creation kingdom, in which there is not male nor female. Galatians 3:28 is absolutely against the idea that all males are made to be one thing (in authority) and all females are made to be another (under authority). Paul meant nothing different about males and females than he meant about Jews and Greeks and slaves and freemen. Those distinctions no longer matter, for all are "adopted as sons" with the rights and privileges of sons. No poor cousins hoping for a place at the table. No illegitimate offspring knowing they were just hired to clean up afterwards. All sons.

What you say about "a form of freedom for women from their oppression" is telling. "Definitely not in all parts of the culture," you say. True-- because Paul was looking towards the New Creation Kingdom of God, not the worldly cultures his readers lived in. In the New Creation kingdom, ALL oppression would cease. That is the kingdom in which promoters of male headship want to perpetuate the subordination of women even after our modern, Western world cultures have left it behind. But that is the kingdom where it ought to have been eliminated first!

Iseetheglory, my time of wavering about this is over. I have studied it for three years now and have become fully satisfied that male headship is a thing of the Fall, not of the kingdom. If you have made up your mind the other way, there is no point in continuing to argue about it. I don't think discussing our respective church backgrounds will change anything.

iseetheglory said...

Hi Kristin,

I found your last comment more revealing about the heart of egalitarianism than any of the doctrinal lectures. If you believed I had a log/speck in my eye and you had the power to remove it with this blog then surely if you were acting in the love of Christ you would have wanted to? Surely context is a significant factor in formulating and undertanding a position eg. UK, US, NZ rather than trying to grope around in the vaccume of isolation of cyberspace. What is kept in the dark can't be accurately assessed and that is where you chose to keep the influences on your doctrine when I asked you in a friendly way to communicate them. It was a sincere attempt to understand the egalitarian position in the context of fellowship rather than competition. You were friendly until I came to a different conviction from you. Then the attitude became 'agree with me or I give you the cold shoulder'. hmm...

I didn't realise we had been arguing but thought we were having a productive discussion until this comment which comes across as unloving and icy. Thought you should know.

In Him

PS Sorry if this got posted several times. I kept not getting a message saying if it had gone or not

Kristen said...

Iseetheglory, I apologize that I was icy and unloving. I certainly didn't intend to come across that way! But please don't judge "the heart of egalitarianism" based on this one conversation. My response was not prompted by egalitarianism-- it came entirely from my own perception of our conversation and had a lot to do with past encounters of this kind, which, though I'm sure you didn't intend it, seemed dismissive of my point of view. I did not feel like you were hearing me-- instead it seemed that you wanted to fit my experiences into your prior assumption that the only thing wrong with the complementarianism that I experienced was that it wasn't "true" complementarianism, but was actually patriarchalism. I felt like I was being pushed into a box rather than heard for what I was saying. I admit that frustration over this resulted in my coming across as short. Again, I'm sorry. As for not wanting to share my church background, the reasons you gave for why you were asking, seemed to me to be more of the same. If you could understand my church and cultural background, it would be easier for you to dismiss my experiences as being "patriarchal" or in some other way not "true" complementarianism, which surely I would embrace gladly if I only understood it properly.

I do understand complementarianism-- I lived it for years, in between my patriarchal period and my egalitarian understanding. To imply otherwise seemed-- and seems-- condescending to me. Perhaps it is largely an issue of not being able to speak face to face and see the nuances. I hope so. But that is how I felt, and feel.