Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hijacked Christianity

“Hijack Christianity? How absurd!” you’ll be thinking about now. “You can’t hijack a concept, a belief.”

Are you so sure? What happens when a plane is hijacked? Someone uses the threat of extreme pain, punishment, attack, or discomfort to impose his will and force another to go in a direction he or she has no desire to go. What direction is Christianity supposed to go? First, Christianity represents the gospel, the Good News of salvation from sin, of deliverance from the bondage that sin brings, of loving and serving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and second, loving our neighbor as ourselves, of developing and using our God-given gifts and talents in the service of Christ and the Church.

How, then, has Christianity been hijacked? By one subgroup of Christians forcing another subgroup into bondage, and by that very action, putting themselves and others in a related subgroup in bondage as well.

“That makes absolutely no sense,” you say.

Let me explain. If a small group of pastors, the first subgroup, decide that Ephesians 5 and other passages about male and female are establishing a hierarchy of husbands having authority over wives, in spite of other passages clearly saying there is neither male nor female, bond nor free, Jew or gentile, and that husbands are to submit to their wives through loving self-sacrifice, if this subgroup instead teach their congregations that "head" means husbands are to have "authority-over" their wives, that first subgroup of pastors is in effect putting another subgroup, wives, into bondage, and by that action putting themselves and other men, those in the related subgroup, in bondage as well.

“How could this be?” you ask.

Galatians 3:1-3 gives us a clue. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”

Now the context of this was circumcision, but the principle of being saved by works applies for other lawish doctrines, like the doctrine of “Wives submit, no matter what!” (“Wives, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and submit to your husbands and you shall be saved.”) Notice the total lack of a companion doctrine of “Husbands love self-sacrificially, no matter what!” This lack makes the law for the wives an effort to bring the wives “into bondage,” which is what the false brethren were doing regarding circumcision. (Galatians 2:3-4)

If Paul calls them false brethren, should we also be calling these people who are trying to bring wives into bondage false brethren? Ouch! I’m not ready to go that far, yet; I’m too versed in giving people the benefit of the doubt. After all, surely they only hold staunchly to their view because they haven’t yet had their eyes opened to the truth. Or is it because they are not being led by the Spirit of God? I mean there it is, in the Bible. It has been there for nearly 2000 years, and male pastors still do not see that husbands are to give up everything for their wives. They are to sacrifice as they would for their own bodies. What would they do for their own bodies? Very few men would beat themselves into “submission” or rant and rave at themselves for forgetting to buy the ice cream they wanted. Instead they make excuses for themselves or even return to the store to get the forgotten item.

But the proponents of this belief claim the authority-over model is God’s idea, not theirs. They are just trying to see to it that women obey God. Again, why this super-concern over women’s obedience to God? When are men going to take a look at their own lack of obedience to God? When Peter was sitting with Jesus, he asked “What about John?” And Jesus said, “What is that to you? You follow Me.” Of course, men could ask why I’m bothering to point this out. Shouldn’t I, too, just follow Jesus and leave them to follow in their own way? In this case there is one difference. They are demanding that women commit idolatry by following and serving THEM, instead of following and serving Jesus, or they claim that it is in following and serving husbands that wives are following Jesus. I am not asking that men follow me or that they do my rules or I will beat them up or punish them in some way. Many of these men are demanding to be their wife’s god. She is to keep her eyes on him and his wants and rules only, to the exclusion of God and everyone else.

This is where Christianity is hijacked. The husband makes a god of himself and demands obedience. This is where he sins and puts himself in bondage to the lusts of his own flesh. Salvation through Christ and service to Christ becomes secondary and sometimes totally out of the picture. His rule is more like “Obey My every whim, make sure I have no reason to get angry, and submit yourself to My rantings and/or beatings, and believe in the lord jesus christ, and you might be saved.” (lower case for the Lord Jesus Christ and upper case for “my” is intentional.)

With this hijacking of Christianity, the abusers think they are going to Heaven, even though they have made themselves their god, and the wives certainly are not allowed any liberty or freedom in Christ, and often deal with extreme confusion about which rules God wants them to obey. They have been put into bondage by one whose behavior closely resembles Satan’s and his minions.

“But it is not that way in most cases,” you protest. “There are lots of Christian men who believe they are the authority in their homes, who are kind to their wives and don’t make gods of themselves.”

Oh? Just because they don’t yell at their wives or beat them, they are in the clear? When the “kind” husband and his wife have a disagreement, and the wife “submits” as required and allows her husband the final choice, whose opinion does this “kind” husband follow? Now the Bible requires that he sacrifice himself for his wife. If he was obeying God, that is what he would do. But most of them would follow their own dictates. And we call that “kind.” Just because he’s not yelling at her, he is considered kind, even while she weeps inside at the injustice of his decision, at his brushing off her concerns, at his forcing her to do or live through something she so desperately dislikes.

Even as I write the above, I can “hear” your next argument. “Well, what if the husband is right and his wife is wrong? For example, what if she wants to spend money foolishly?”

Ok, point well taken. But does that give him permission to run over her wishes? No. Rather, he needs to take the time to discuss with her fully all the pros and cons until they come to an agreement. If she is spending money foolishly as you suggest, the couple needs to work together on a budget. But perhaps she is not as foolish as you think. Perhaps he is spending monstrous amounts of money on big expensive toys, like collectable cars for example, and is “putting his foot down” when she wants the boys to have 3 pairs of pants instead of 2 pairs, so she does not need to launder them so often. Perhaps he is doing the foolish spending and blaming the shortage of funds on his wife.

You see, when the bottom line is that one partner always is entitled to make that final choice, no matter how loving he may appear, no matter how reasonable, he will always reserve for himself the right to frame the question, it’s importance and priority, and how soon a decision must be made and action taken. Leaving himself that right, gives him nearly total liberty to inflict his will on his wife and children—even abusively while he appears to be kind and caring. For example, if his wife thinks the family should have their dryer repaired or replaced because it is taking too long to dry clothes making it impossible to keep up with the family laundry, the "kind and caring" husband can decide to put it off until the dryer quits working entirely, claiming that purchasing a new pair of steel-toed boots for himself is more important because the heels on his current pair are slightly worn down and if he doesn’t get new ones he’ll get back aches again. And the next month, repairing his all terrain vehicle (ATV) would be more important because it is a business expense. All his reasons appear so justified, but are they? Perhaps he could walk or drive the pickup instead of using the ATV for a month. And perhaps the boots could wait another month or two, or be taken to get the soles repaired.

It is only when a husband values his wife as highly as he values himself, and when that valuing includes making sure she not only gets to voice an opinion for every decision, but that she helps decide every decision, including the direction of child-rearing and any other choice she wants to have a part in, that he can be certain that he is not allowing himself to raise himself to take God’s place. It is only when he values her God-given gifts and makes sure she has the resources to develop them, just as much as he makes sure he has the resources to develop his own gifts, and that they discuss and decide the development and timing together, that he can avoid hijacking Christianity.

One other issue that is rarely talked about in Christian circles is that of household chores. Traditionally, husbands hold their hierarchical position by choosing which chores are least distasteful to them and leaving the rest—usually the more distasteful and the more daily and time-consuming ones—for their wives to do, even if their wives are also working to bring in a pay check, or if their wives were working hard all day taking care of house and children. They expect to come home and relax with newspaper or tv, while their wives continue working to put supper on the table. They expect their wives to consider the husband’s contribution of mowing the lawn and checking the oil in the vehicles once a week to be a substantial sacrifice, but they refuse the daily chores of washing dishes, cooking, doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms, picking up toys and sorting papers (all of which require a substantial investment in time and energy) as beneath them. If they do help with these tasks, they tend to wash the colors all together causing clothing to be of mixed and weird colors, fold the laundry so it doesn’t fit well in the drawer or cupboard, leave crud on the dishes they wash and put them in the wrong places so their wives have difficulty finding what they are looking for, scrambling toys together instead of putting the legos all together and the Lincoln logs in the proper container, and they would tend to misplace or throw out papers that are needed, all of which results in wives preferring to do the work themselves. A husband can then claim he offered to do the work, but that would not be quite true because he purposely did a poor job so that he could go do something else and so that he would not have to do the job again. This, too, is a way an apparently “kind” man can make his wife appear unreasonable, while he elevates himself to a privileged status that should be reserved for God alone.

I bring this up because the male privileged class is so much a part of our culture, that we often don’t recognize those pesky little details that allow men loopholes for usurping God’s place of entitlement. Although these “little things” may not hijack Christianity in and of themselves, they act as “little foxes that ruin the vines,” or as the “yeast that leavens the lump.” Where a little secretive disrespect is allowed to indwell the heart, in time that disrespect tends to grow into something more injurious. If not in that particular husband’s heart, it will be in a comment he makes to another man that encourages the disrespect already thriving there.

It is time husbands stop hijacking Christianity and elevate God to His rightful place, and put themselves in their places—on equal ground next to their wives so that both can focus on loving and following Jesus and on loving and submitting to one another.

And if husbands refuse to stop hijacking Christianity? Then what are the wives to do? I mean, telling a wife to disregard this favorite of doctrines and not submit is considered unbiblical, as rebelling against God, and as the evil of witchcraft. Yet, Paul says in Galatians 2:5 "To whom (the false brethren) we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you." When men teach that the "wife submit" doctrine carries more weight than the husband love self-sacrificially doctrine, and that it requires a wife to submit to all kinds of indignities or subtle put-downs at the hand of her husband, that is false doctrine. According to Paul, in cases of false doctrine, we are to give place by subjection "no, not for an hour."

Indeed, submitting to that works-oriented doctrine steals from the awesomeness of the truth of the gospel. Brothers and sisters, "these things ought not to be."



Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" Please visit www.wanetadawn.com to read chapter 1 and learn about non-physical domestic abuse.

10 comments:

  1. It is interesting that you connect the doctrine of wifely submission with idolatry. In researching the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the True Woman movement, it is almost an inescapable fact that idolatry plays a huge part in the way this doctrine is fixated upon by its proponents.

    I call it "husbandolatry."

    Jocelyn Andersen
    www.WomanSubmit.com

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  2. Thanks for your comments, Hannah and Jocelyn! May I borrow your "husbandolatry" term, Jocelyn?

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  3. BRAVO!

    I am male and egal so I agree with you. EVEN IF a husband NEVER makes a "final decision", just the ability to do so distorts the decision process. Even just setting priorities unilaterally is suspect.

    I call the idea of doing things badly so one ends up not doing them the nincompoop strategy.

    A question EVERYONE should ask themselves is: "How can I be assured that I have not deceived myself when I get my way?" The best way I know to mitigate this is to submit yourself to others. That is, I refuse to accept the "trump card" that some non-egals teachers claim I have by God's choice simply because I am male.

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  4. Waneta Dawn, thank you for articulating so clearly what needs to be said and what so many don't want to hear. The fact is that just as in slavery, simply because some subordinates have kind "masters" doesn't make the authority structure right or Biblical. The Bible isn't about perpetuating the social structures of the times in which it was written, though many Christians appear to believe it is.

    One thing about husbands and wives though-- even in my own marriage, where we both believe in Biblical equality, it's easy to get out of the patriarchal traditions, but much harder to get the traditions out of ourselves! I find that on coming home from work, I just naturally move on to the next task, be it laundry, dinner or whatever, while he just naturally sits down and expects to spend the evening relaxing. This is what we both saw our parents doing in childhood, this is what we were conditioned by our upbringing to do. I have had to learn to ask him to help, and he has had to learn to be willing. Sometimes he doesn't do as good a job as I would do-- but this is not deliberate, it's because he didn't receive the training I did, in how to do the "female" tasks.

    So my caution is to not always assume male culpability in these patterns. Patriarchy is a hard thing to walk out of.

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  5. I also wanted to post this clarification to my earlier comment:

    When I said I had to learn to ask for help with domestic chores, and he had to learn to be willing-- I did not mean to imply that he was unwilling to do chores; only that he was unused to having to do them (and no one really wants to do chores!). This was earlier in our marriage. We have now grown to the point where he often does domestic chores without being asked, and where I no longer assume a domestic chore is automatically my job.

    But it's a process; one that I believe our own children will struggle with less.

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  6. Thank you for your comments, Don. I like the nincompoop designation, and you are right, self-deception is impossible to "see" without the help of those around us.

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  7. Thanks, Kristen, for opening up a discussion of chores and motives. it sounds like you and your husband have done a great job of navigating a change in spousal responsibilites and respect. What you say reminds me of what John Hagee says about the Israelites; God got them out of Egypt, but it was much harder to get Egypt out of the Israelites.

    My comments about household chores came from a combination of my own experiences and comments made by a number of men in the batterers group I facilitated. There seemed to be an attitude of anger that a wife would ask him to do HER chores. And then the man would respond by doing a lousy job, and get more angry when she complained or explained that she wanted it done better/differently. One time the men were angry that she should require them to fold the pants differently than they wanted to fold them. (why should they fold them in 3rds instead of in 4ths?) I explained about drawer/cupboard fit. We also discussed that the work was their job, too, not just hers, and that they needed to take responsibility and do what needed to be done, instead of thinking in terms of having "helped" her.

    Yet, I do agree, some men do want to be loving and share household responsibilities, but just haven't had the experience to do the unfamiliar tasks well.

    The question then is whether those men are mature enough to submit to having their wives teach them how to do it. After all, the wives have had their mothers teach them. If the men are truly egalitarian and respect their wives, they will have a learning spirit, and won't resort to the "nincompoop strategy" (thanks for that term, Don!) by doing a sloppy job as soon as "the wife" turns her back.

    By the way, a husband referring to his spouse as "the wife" is disrespectful, (that's why I put it in quotes) because it usually includes an innuendo of "she's so demanding, the old hag."

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  8. Thank you, Waneta, for taking such a clearly articulated and well thought out stand on these issues.

    "Hijacking" of Christianity is a great analogy for male dominance over women in the "Christian" world.

    In my graduate studies we learned that women have three shifts. Shift 1 is her outside, full time employment. Shift 2 is her home, of which the full time working husband still considers this to be the responsibility of the full time working wife, hence she does most if not all of the chores. Shift 3 is our Western Society's expectation that she be beautiful, buff, tan, and superwoman.

    No wonder we're so exhausted. Added to that, isn't it something like 1/4 homes has domestic violence going on within those walls? And then the churches silencing, blaming the victim, demanding she remains in an abusive situation... And this is the freedom for which Christ died to set us free???

    I started a blog about Mars Hill Church in Seattle, pastored by Mark Driscoll,

    freedom4captives.wordpress.com

    because of what appears to me to be church/spiritual abuse, and contained within that is a lot of what looks like chauvinism, if not misogyny, as seen in Mark's teachings about women submitting and women being "the more easily deceived." What you describe in your article describes what I see in the Mars Hill system: idolatry of husbands, (also idolatry of all leaders in the church, esp. Mark), bondage instead of liberty, repeated emphasis on members submitting to Mark and on women submitting to men-husbands in particular but not solely... and as you write here, so at Mars Hill that although mentioned, there is not the same emphasis, demand even, for husbands to sacrificially love their wives.

    I am deeply grieved about how victims are generally treated in our society anyway, but especially grieved about how they are treated by the church. When I see a system of oppressors, I also have to speak out.

    On my site I have given many examples from the testimonies of women who had been abused in that system. One "Fundy" as he calls himself wrote an entire post on his site attacking me and my site and the women who had given their testimonies. He called one of these "incredibly selfish" for whining about being a mother and taking care of the house, and he said, "she obviously does not have a submissive heart to Christ or her husband." Sigh.

    I'll be linking your site from mine so others will find the wealth of helpful and insightful information you have here.

    Warmest Regards,
    Freedom
    freedom4captives.wordpress.com

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  9. you take away and add to scripture, you are aligned with satan and must seek forgivenness, for women are to be submissive to man and man treat women like Christ treats the church, this is why your evil feminist perspective is part of the destruction of the family and you are in great delusion or are a planted wolf, i shake the dust from my feet and rebuke you. May Jesus forgive you.

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