Saturday, September 25, 2010

New Creatures

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.

Recently, I spoke with a woman who said the man she married changed radically after the wedding ceremony. Before the ceremony he was kind, courteous, respectful. But after the wedding, he became someone she didn’t know: he became her boss. Other women have also complained of the same phenomenon. One woman said it is as if a man goes through brain surgery during the wedding. His kind, loving, personality is exchanged for a nasty, domineering one. He is a “new creature” alright, but not one that matches any “new creature” list in the Bible. Instead, his behavior can be found in the “old man” list.

Season 7, episode 20 of The Waltons, entitled “The Outsider” shows what happens. Ben is dating Cindy, and is such a kind and loving gentleman that she wants to marry him. Within 24 hours after the wedding, Cindy is crying because Ben has chewed her out and told her how things shall be. A conversation between Ben and his dad tells us what is going on.
Dad: I’m not sure you know what a serious business marriage is.
Ben: Cindy and I are going to work at it same as you and Mama.
Dad: It’s not easy.
Ben: It’s worked for over 25 years for you, hasn’t it? You’ve made the final decisions around here; that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Ben has just described what so many men believe when they marry. They are confident the marriage will work because they are THE MAN, and they will make the final decisions. They will have the authority, and their wife will both listen to them and obey them. There! All they have to do is follow the husband-is-the-authority formula and all will be well. They will be ecstatically happy, and their wife will be, too.

But it doesn’t work that way. For some reason their wife cries--especially if she yields to her domineering husband--or she shuts him out of the bedroom or even out of the house, and stops listening and obeying. The husband doesn't have a clue why HIS marriage is not working.

Ben’s dad gives us a clue, though. He says to his daughter Mary Ellen:
“Ben’s not the easiest person to live with. He seems to think that being a man means being the boss.”

Husband authority is the very thing complementarians teach. Have you ever noticed how many complementarian marriage books are on the market claiming to be the solution for marriages? Yet wives are miserable. (Jocelyn Anderson in “Woman this is War” notes in chapter 2 that both Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Betty Friedan have said that women are miserable and frustrated.) Complementarian marriage books tell wives it is their rebellion that makes them miserable. So Christian wives dutifully try to submit even though they know their husbands are wrong, and it makes them even more miserable. Some wives cry themselves to sleep most nights and read more complementarian marriage books, looking for that elusive solution. And wouldn't you know it, complementarian authors came up with the answer. Manuals now tell wives the solution is to submit JOYFULLY. YES! If a wife doesn’t JUST submit, but submits JOYFULLY, her misery will be gone. But is it? Or is she just trying to fool herself? Trying to deceive herself? Woman after woman wakes up after years of allowing herself to be deceived into “joyful submission,” and finds herself more miserable and more down-trodden than she was before.

Take another peek into the Walton household. Ben tells Cindy he’s going to take her out for supper and a movie, so Cindy goes to clean herself up. She hasn’t put it together that the Waltons have only one bathroom, and that family members must keep their time in the bathroom short. While she leisurely bathes, four siblings are waiting their turn for the bathroom. Her new husband shows up and orders her to hurry up. She protests that she had to wait to use the bathroom, too, and he increases the volume and the pressure. She quickly ends her bath, and Ben keeps shouting at her while she dries herself. She tells him to stop yelling at her, but he just yells even more. When she opens the door, she apologizes to the family, saying she didn’t realize the situation. Ben then scolds her in front of his siblings, even though she has already apologized. She hurries away, and Ben tells his siblings it won’t happen again.

Ben’s siblings tell him he was being too harsh, that Cindy is trying her best. Ben yells:
“Will you keep out of it? She’s MY wife. What goes on between us is my business, not yours.”

Like Ben demonstrates, these are the typical beliefs of controlling husbands: 1. that their wives are their property, 2.) that they can treat their wives however they choose, and 3.) that how they treat their wives is nobody else’s business.

All three of these beliefs are false. We are all accountable to God and to one another, we cannot treat others however shabbily we choose, and no one is our property. Children are given to us on loan from God, to be prepared for life in a responsible and loving way, and spouses are also on loan from God, to be companions for the ups and downs of life. But those spouses are not ours to mistreat, to take advantage of, or to dominate. They are ours to respect as joint heirs with Christ, with value that is higher than ours, (In lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves." Phil 2:3) and with specific calling to serve as the Spirit of God calls, not according to our desires or beliefs. The calling of God doesn’t give anyone permission to ride roughshod over their mate. It doesn’t require the mate to do anything they don’t feel right doing, not even in the name of submission.

In the Walton house, Ben doesn’t follow these rules, and Cindy stops listening to him, kicks him out of the house, and tells him she’s leaving him. She refuses to consider giving him another chance.
Ben yells at her: Cindy! You’re my WIFE!
Cindy hollers back: No I’m not. I’m just somebody for you to order around.

Has Cindy hit the nail on the head? When a husband dominates his wife, are they really two who have become one flesh? If her half of the input is cut off, do they have a marriage? Doesn’t marriage require TWO people melding together into one, instead of one person taking over the other and erasing her as if he were a victor of war? Is the woman really a wife when her personhood has been erased, or when the husband has attempted to erase her? If a wife has been erased by her husband and she is a non-person by reason of stolen influence, can anyone claim God has joined them together? Is it possible to join together 1 person and a nobody, a ruler & a person who is usually overruled, making her a person of no significance? This is the definition of a hostile take-over, not a marriage. And what if the wife "rebels" or refuses to become a prisoner of war, a piece of chattel?
Ben confides to his dad: She won’t listen…Aren’t I supposed to (be the boss)? Aren’t I the man of the family, just like you are?
Dad replies: There are all kinds of ways to be a man. Listening to others is one of them.

Here Ben reveals that he has seen a pattern in his parent’s marriage. Dad usually tells Mom how things shall be, and Mom usually yields. Nothing is said about this doctrine being taught in church, but since Mom and the children are Baptists, (while Dad doesn’t go to church) it is likely they do hear that doctrine from the pulpit. Ben seems not to have noticed that Dad listens to Mom and to the children and frequently respects their wishes. Dad usually gets all the facts from the children and/or from Mom before he issues an order. Ben seems not to have noticed that at times Mom does the opposite of what Dad said, or that Dad highly respects Mom.

Why did Ben miss all these details? Could it be the church’s doctrinal emphasis, that every dad he knows orders his wife around and every wife he knows obeys, and that the most usual pattern in his parents’ marriage is that Mom mostly does what Dad says, while Dad seldom does what Mom says, with the exception of coming to eat? These are the very reasons young men begin their marriages expecting to be the “loving” bosses of their wives. They scold and chew out their wives for minor imperfections. Like Ben, they associate manliness with bossiness and with being in charge and in control of their wives.

Dad tells Ben of the thing he hasn’t noticed: that Dad does listen to and respect his wife. (perhaps because he doesn't go to church?) He urges Ben to listen to his grandma. Ben acts taken down a few notches as he follows his grandma back to his wife.

Cindy lets Grandma in the house and tells her:
"He won’t listen to me. He’s just like my father, loud and bossy."

Grandma hands Cindy a broom and tells Cindy to do the talking, implying Ben should do the listening. Cindy pokes Ben with the bristle end of the broom and says:
“‘God bless OUR house,’ that’s what Grandma’s sampler says. It can’t be ours unless you let me make it mine, too.”

Those words finally hit home with Ben. He realizes that he has been making it HIS house, instead of both of theirs. He also realizes he has been hurting his wife by excluding her from the decision-making. He does apologize, the two make up, and thereafter they have a respectful and loving marriage where Ben values Cindy for who she is, and stops forcing her into being an extension of himself.

That broom helped Ben become a “new creature.” The narrator says that broom always had a place in a corner of the kitchen, implying that from time to time Ben may have needed help from Cindy and her broom to return to his “new creature” status and shed the “old man.”

Isn't it time complementarians stop urging husbands to put on "old man" behavior and to instead put on "new creature" behavior of love, respect, not-lording-it-over, treating their wives as they would like to be treated? This means wives should be allowed to define who they really are and behave accordingly, instead of acting out some role prescribed for them by their husbands and the church hierarchy.

It is time to teach husbands to be "new creatures" instead of acting like the "old man" Adam, who ruled over his wife.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Connected to the Vine

Muslims have been free to say what they want about Jews and Christians, and no one retaliates against them. Muslims even ask to impose Sharia law in non-Muslim nations, and no one stirs themselves to violence over it. Yet, if anyone says anything against the Muslims or their religion, they get together to stir themselves up in a furor of anger and hatred, and they blame the resulting evil on the person(s) who they claim caused them to get violent.

The result is that everyone walks on eggshells around Arabs, lest they get violent. It is high time someone steps up and says we refuse to take the blame for your behavior. Someone did that on September 11, 2010 by tearing pages out of a Koran. The pages ripped out were those that commanded the killing of non-Muslims, which is a point that needed to be made long ago. Can a person be a Muslim without embracing the teaching that all should be Muslim and that every Muslim should seek to either convert or kill all non-Muslims? Is there such a thing as a peaceful Muslim?

I think of the Muslim who was working to paint Muslims as being peaceful, moderate peoples. Yet, when his wife left him, he killed her and cut off her head. So moderate!! So peaceful!!! Yet that is the Sharia law they wish us to allow them to practice in non-Muslim countries. They want us to look the other way when they murder their wives and sisters. And how long would it be before they murder us because we are not Muslim? After all, isn’t that Sharia law, too?

The crazy thing of it is that these murderers refuse to be held accountable for their actions. They claim it is someone else’s fault for stirring them to anger. Concerning the 20+ that were killed as a “response” to tearing pages from the Koran, for example, they blame those that tore the pages out. Yet, we saw the Muslims on the news, stirring each other up, rousing the crowd to violence.

Randall Terry, who organized the Koran page tearing, got it right when he said: “Such logic is like saying that a woman who is abused by her boyfriend or husband is guilty of bringing violence on herself because she said or did something that irritated him.”

Indeed, many in the Christian community do blame abused women for being beaten by their husbands and also blame the Koran page tearers for the killing of 20+ people. Those husbands, whether Christian or Muslim, are responsible for their own actions. They, themselves, are responsible and accountable to God for the way they practice their evil thinking and stir themselves up to anger and violence. Their violence is NOT a knee-jerk reaction; it is a developed ideology and belief system that they carefully nurture, even researching for ways to grow “hybrid crops” (like teaching that the in the Trinity Jesus has a role similar to what they proscribe for wives, while husbands have the role of The Father) to strengthen the “stock” of their belief system and make it resistant to various destroying “pests.”

Only this time the “pests” are actually beneficial to the saving of their souls. For the belief system they are nurturing and attaching themselves to is actually a soul-destroying thorn bush that claims to be the Vine. But as it is fed, it puts forth a choking vine that wraps itself so tightly around their branch where it is attached to the True Vine, and squeezes off the sap supply until their connection to the Vine is choked to death and dies without their knowledge. As their connection to the Vine is in the process of being squeezed shut, their fruit of the Spirit becomes smaller and production decreases, and their fruit of the thorn bush begins to increase. Eventually, when the connection to the vine is completely severed—even though they may be quoting Bible verses—the thorny fruit becomes big, luscious, and hurtful to many who come in contact with them.

The result is that some “Christians” behave very similarly to “radical” Muslims, lashing out in violence to any who dares to oppose them, blaming those they target. “Christian” husbands—and their pastors—blame their wives for “non-submission” and “insubordination,” while Muslim husbands blame their wives and sisters for the same thing—even when the wives/sisters are raped. Neither puts the blame where it belongs, both have an inflated idea of their godlikeness, and neither are connected to the Vine.

Jesus said: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:4-6 KJV

It seems to me, a big part of "abiding in Jesus" is to do what he says (as perceived by the people in His day, taking into account the culture and beliefs that were already in place when Jesus said those things). Jesus explicitly said to not take authority over others:
“Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them and they that are great exercise authority upon them. but it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his lie a ransom for many.” Matt 20:25-28

but the CBMW and complementarians are teaching the opposite of what Jesus taught. They teach husbands to exercise dominion, leadership, authority over their wives.

How can they do that and consider themselves to be abiding in Jesus or connected to the Vine?

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Foreign Fruit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

Although they wouldn't dare say so, according to complementarian teaching, the above Galatians 5 list is for females, especially wives. There is a different list for men, especially husbands. That list would read: “But the fruit of the Spirit for husbands is leadership, authority, ruler of his household, spiritual priesthood, police of his wife and children, judge, jury, and prison warden of his wife and children, this is God's law.”

How do I come to this conclusion? Complementarian teachers urge husbands to TAKE AUTHORITY OVER their wives (caps for emphasis). A speaker for the Promise Keepers tells husbands to TAKE authority, to not wait until the wife gives him that authority. These teachers can talk about loving leadership all they want, but it is clear that is NOT what they mean. What they really mean is despotic authority. This becomes clear when supposedly loving men, like John Piper, advise wives to endure non-hitting abuse from their husbands “for a season.” And to “submit” as long as it is not “CLEARLY” sin, with the examples given being quite far out and unlikely for any Christian husband to suggest. Unloving behavior is clearly sin, but that isn't mentioned.

Just where is the Bible verse where husbands are commanded to take authority over their wives? Where are they commanded to make their homes into kingdoms where husbands are the lawmaker, police, jury, judge, jailer, and executioner? I find neither permission nor command for husbands to do anything but submit to their wives—more specifically, to love their wives as their own bodies and give themselves up for their wives.

In addition, if they are connected to the Vine, they should be producing the Fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. If this is not their fruit, they are not connected to the Vine.

In other words, demanding his own way, calling her derogatory names, using Bible verses to guilt her into obeying the him, teaching the children to disrespect their mother, using his larger size to intimidate her, threatening her, using any form of physical abuse, all are foreign fruit. And this is the kind of fruit complementarian teachers like John Piper and Bruce Ware have given husbands permission to produce.

How can shepherds of God's flock dare to permit production of foreign fruit? How DARE they ENCOURAGE production of foreign fruit??

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Tyranny of False Accusations

President Bush has been blamed for the downturn of the US economy, but is he the real culprit? When George W Bush first took office in 2000, the economy was beginning to dip into a recession. President Bush and the Republican congress, in spite of the woe pronounced by democrats, who claimed the cuts would significantly reduce the taxes paid to the government, signed tax cuts into law and implemented a stimulus package that put money back in the pockets of the tax payers. The result was increased jobs and increased money pouring into the government coffers. I recall an article in The Economist where they were so surprised that the taxes paid in had increased rather than decreased.

September 11, 2001 brought turmoil to our land, yet that did not negatively affect the economy. Congress and the majority of the population agreed that attacking Afghanistan was a good move. President Bush and congress debated about taking the war to Iraq. Intelligence agents said they did have weapons of mass destruction and Sadam Hussein was a ticking bomb. Most of congress agreed to take the war to Iraq. The US warned Hussein that we were coming if he did not meet our demands. He thumbed his nose at the US. After giving Hussein plenty of time to get those weapons out of Iraq, the US invaded the country. When no weapons of mass destruction were found, the rhetoric against President Bush began in earnest. According to Karl Rove in the July 15, 2010 issue of the Wall Street Journal, it was Ted Kennedy who “fired the first shot in an all-out assault on President George W. Bush’s integrity.” It wasn’t long until people all over the country were claiming that President Bush had purposely misled the nation even though he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The result of this character assassination was that despite a strong economy democrats were voted into office in the midterm elections in President Bush’s second term. One of the first moves the democrat congress did was to substantially raise the minimum wage, which President Bush signed. Within 6 months, our economy was beginning to slide into a recession.

Since my income is around that of those who were buying low-end houses, and since I am self-employed, I was in an ideal position to see first hand what happened to cripple our economy. Within a short time after the minimum wage increase, some people were laid off; employers who hired minimum wage workers had to let some go or lose their businesses altogether. A teenager who worked at a gas station told me that a recent hire had his wage raised to the same as hers, even though she had been there for over a year. She also reported that her workplace raised the cost of various items. It wasn’t long until grocery store prices began to climb as owners attempted to bring in enough to keep their workers. Slowly, over several months, those in the next brackets above minimum wage saw their wages rise. But those around $15,000 and up saw no wage increase, even though their expenses had gone up considerably. Some of my customers had to discontinue my services because they could no longer afford me, even though I had not raised my prices. Although I was blessed with other customers, I could not raise my prices to keep up with expenses. I heard of others who were also self-employed in my field who couldn’t find enough work. Only the more wealthy or those in desperate need continued to hire our services. And I was no longer making budget. I had to reduce or eliminate categories like “savings,” and “medical.” And I could not increase my “food” category, even though I desperately needed to. I had to buy only those items that were on sale. Liver, a lower priced item, became more popular as people chose to eat more liver in their struggle to keep their food bills down, which resulted in liver prices shooting up.

All that was bad enough. But around that time, gas prices began to soar as well. Remember, part of the soaring prices was caused by the increased wages of those working for the gas stations. The combination of raised prices due to the minimum wage hike and raised gas prices made it impossible for some home owners to meet their mortgage commitments. While some people likely did buy a house they could not afford, many more of them had originally been able to pay their bills, but now could not due to raised prices and stagnant wages.

The lies about President Bush continued. Everything was his fault; everything from global warming to the crashing economy to Katrina to anything else that went wrong. People bought what the mainstream media spewed out. Polls that were taken after the 2008 election found that a substantial number of people thought Republicans had control of congress before the election, and that our economic problems were the fault of the Republicans.

Thus Obama was voted into office based on the lie that the Republicans in general, and President Bush in particular had brought the recession on the United States. No one seemed to remember that the economy had been doing well before the midterm elections. They voted against Republicans primarily to stop the war in Iraq, and to get those people who they were convinced had no integrity out of office. They voted for “change,” not having a clue what change Obama was talking about. They turned a blind eye to Obama’s record and spouted the rhetoric that everything was President Bush’s and the Republican’s fault.

Now Obama and the democratic congress has forced health care reform into law, against the will of the majority of the people. This, too, is caused by the tyranny of false accusations against President Bush and the Republicans. When health care goes into effect, the cost to everyone except those who earn the least, will increase substantially. This, too, will cause more lost jobs, more unemployment.

Those who leveled false accusations against President Bush have a lot to answer for. It brought a huge increase in minimum wage, which began the economic downturn we are living today. It raised prices, it put people out of work, it caused people to be unable to pay their mortgages, it caused businesses to fail, which put more people out of work and caused more people to be unable to pay their mortgages, which caused banks to fail, which brought the government to sign a number of stimulus bills, which raised the national debt, raised the deficit, decreased the value of the dollar, and will raise our taxes, which will increase loss of jobs, and probably will take us into a depression. The dollar used to be worth a little more than the Japanese yen, but this year the yen is worth more than the dollar. (My daughter used up our savings to go to Japan).

Indeed, if congress does not vote to extend the Bush tax cuts, if they keep on spouting their false accusations against President George W Bush, and allow those tax cuts to expire out of spite that has been generated by falsehoods, I can expect to lose another round of customers. But this time there won’t be other customers to take their place. Ronald Reagan used to call it the “trickle down” theory. It turns out he was right. Even though we think the wealthy do not need the tax cuts, they are the ones who hire the middle class, and the middle class in turn hires me and others in the service industry. When the wealthy have their money taxed away from them, they cut their work force or stop being in business altogether. That hurts all of us.

I don’t like the idea of capitalism any more than the next person. Too many capitalists line their pockets at the expense of others. But I have learned that when socialism is instituted—even democratic socialism—those who are too heavily taxed lose their incentive to work and to make money. Instead, they choose to keep their incomes under the punishing thresholds, and the unemployment rate increases, bringing joblessness and suffering to an increased number of people, which reduces the work of the service industry. And like a spiral the unemployment rate will keep rising as more and more people are forced to close their businesses or reduce their work force.

And it is all caused by the tyranny of false accusations.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.