Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Quick Word On Mutual Submission

I don't like Christian books on Marriage. I find them to be generally and groundlessly chauvinist in their approach. Now, as tends to be the case, I may be the loan-wolf feminist (and ironically so because I am a man... and quite thoroughly)--the only one who thinks that gender roles in marriage are unnecessary and even unhealthy. I recently heard a line from a book which stated that the man in the marriage (of course assuming that all marriages are between a man and a woman), even if he doesn't act as such, is to be in charge of major family decisions and that the woman is to be submissively supportive thereto and should not get into the habit of "demanding her rights." When families lose track of their roles, it argued, the two will both be waiting on the other to do their part and problems will arise (no doubt in sex as well). The woman, it went on, is not to see their submission as an encroachment upon their individual value or rights but they should know that this is the role for which they were made by God... in other words, you were created to be submissive, so you'll learn to like it.

To pretty much all of that stuff, I say "B.S.!" (which is, of course, and acronym from which you should infer that I strongly disagree with the statements in question). God did not create gender roles, people did. Gender distinctions, the man ruling over the woman and the woman seeking her identity in the man, are part of the curse of sin which Jesus Christ came to reverse. Genesis 3:15, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you," is not a statement of how things should be. It is a description of a horrible distortion of creation--a distortion being mended by the gospel of Jesus Christ (for there is now no male or female for you are all one in Christ... Galatians 3:28). These sorts of roles, the very ones which the Christian books often attempt to flaunt, are nothing short of sinful oppression of women (even if the women are often the perpetrators). The roles offered in scripture, wherever you might identify them, are about mutuality, mutual submission and respect. Of course Paul gives different instructions to men and women in different passages but the approach is always about sharing authority and empowerment.

The roles we often try to ascribe, roles which place the woman in submission and the man in authority, are not just oppressive to women (which, actually, causes men to miss out on plenty of blessing) they are unhealthy in relationships. Yes, if we stick to our roles we might be efficient and we might get things done but communication and compassion can remain absent. The same kind of relational efficiency can be accomplished through constant communication and collaborative customization of responsibility. In other words, we can get things done together, not by assigning clear cut hierarchy and job descriptions, but by taking the risk of talking through things and picking up on a rhythm in the relationship. This requires vulnerability, compassion, and yes, shared authority and empowerment--mutuality.

Of course, in every relationship responsibilities will be divided as we grow together but it does not have to be so dogmatically that we become ideological and systematic in assigning authority to one gender over the other. I don't mind at all if Amanda wants to take charge in an important family decision... as long as we do it together with mutual submission and steadfast love.

2 comments:

Keegan said...

Well written Wes. Well written.

WES ELLIS said...

Thanks Keegan!