Sunday, December 19, 2010

Institution of Submission—As to the Lord

Before Christ, wives didn't submit; they obeyed their husbands. Although this is never commanded, we see the pattern of wifely obedience to their husbands in many Bible stories. Sara obeyed Abraham. I assume she referred to herself as his sister instead of his wife, because Abimelech reproved her in Genesis 20:16. (Was he accusing her of putting on rose colored glasses? "Behold he is to thee a covering of the eyes...") She thought of him as "my lord" when she heard they were to have a child in their old age. Gen 18:12 Vashti was expected to obey her husband when he ordered her to display herself to a drunken, leering crowd of men and lost her royal estate when she disobeyed. Sapphira agreed with Annanias to lie about a donation to the church, Acts 5:1-10, and was struck down by God because of it. Wives obeyed their husbands as one would obey a taskmaster; with fear.

But Jesus instituted a new thing, honor and status for women, and adult submission as to the Lord, rather than child-like obedience as to a king or taskmaster.

He started the new pattern with the arrival of the one who was to prepare the way—John the Baptist. He chose to have his forerunner come through Elizabeth, a barren woman, who had endured years of the reproach of men and was now beyond child-bearing years. In Luke 1:25 Elizabeth says:
“Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.”
Barren women were the lowest of the low. Finally being pregnant raised Elizabeth's status, and that her child was filled with the Holy Ghost while in her womb, and was the forerunner of the Messiah raised her status even further. When she heard her cousin, Mary's voice and her babe leaped in her womb, Elizabeth was honored by being filled with the Holy Ghost, which was unusual in those days.

God could have chosen a different way for the forerunner of the Messiah to appear, but He didn't. He chose a lowly woman, who was reproached by men. Elizabeth's husband had little to do with raising his wife's status. Indeed, he had been unable to impregnate her for years, and now his own lack of faith made it clear that her child's Spirit-filling was in spite of her husband.

Jesus chose to come to earth through a woman of low status as well. Mary spoke of her low status being raised when she visited Elizabeth.
Luke 1:46-48. "My soul doth magnify the Lord...for he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” Luke 1:52-53 “He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.”
Very few were of lower degree in that day than females. And both Elizabeth and Mary rejoice in their raised status. Mary prophesies of the new order; that the poor and those of low degree will be exalted by God, while the oppressive rich will be brought low.

As mentioned in the previous post, Jesus continued to honor women throughout His ministry and never stooped to the common woman-debasing practices of the day. But He went a step further: He lowered His own status as humans saw it, by washing the feet of His disciples, a job no one else wanted to do. Further, He taught the disciples to do the same; to serve others—even those they considered beneath them. And to serve them doing the tasks no one else wanted to do.

The Apostle Paul follows the example Jesus established and set the stage for successful husband-servitude by telling wives to submit to their husbands, who were considered their superiors in that culture, AS TO THE LORD. This was not reiterating the centuries-old practice of obeying dictator husbands, but instead was instituting a new practice in marriage. Even as the lowly Peter submitted to superior Jesus when Jesus stooped, bent, or knelt to wash his feet, so also lowly wives were to abstain from refusing to yield to their superior husbands when the husbands dropped the rules of status and hierarchy to stoop and serve their wives with love and sacrifice.
“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so the wives to their own husbands in every thing” Ephesians 5:24
The “every thing” wives were to submit to, as explained in the verses addressed to husbands, was the new order that Jesus had established—that those of high status were to love and sacrificially serve those of low status, thereby raising those of low status to a place of respect and honor, which would result in obliterating status differences entirely.

This new order in marriage fulfills the law of loving God with our whole being and loving our neighbor as ourselves. When husbands love and sacrificially serve their wives, they are showing evidence that they know and love God. And just like we love Jesus because He first loved us, so also wives will love their husbands because the husbands first loved their wives. When husbands demand a place of higher respect and authority, denying wives the privilege of the self-determination of following God according to their own consciences, they are not loving their wives as themselves, and therefore are not living according to the “royal law” (James 2:8) and therefore do not know God, either, (I John 4:20).

The husband loves his wife so much that he is sacrificing because he loves her, not out of obligation. His love is so powerful he sees to it that his sacrifice is helpful rather than sloppy, disruptive, self-aggrandizing, wife-exploitative, or etc. In other words, if he is serving by doing house-hold chores, he will do chores in such a way that his wife cannot tell by his poor or disrespectful workmanship (that forces her to do it over) which of them did the task. This takes humility on the part of husbands. Just as their wives at some point in their lives had to humble themselves to learn how to do things right, so also the husbands will need to humble themselves to receive instruction until they get it right. I can't imagine Jesus leaving mud between Peter's toes, nor that He would consider a sloppy or other sin-motivated job as loving self-sacrifice.

On the other hand, wives who refuse to allow their husbands to serve them with loving, non-pushy self-sacrifice, expose the pride within themselves. Just as Peter's refusal to allow Jesus to wash his feet would have shown evidence of pride in his low status, and thus a lack of love for Jesus, so also wives who refuse to allow their husbands to demonstrate their love by demolishing the status differences between husbands and wives, males and females, reveal their own sinful pride.

Wives who "submit as to the Lord," submit to receiving humble service from their husbands. Just as Jesus requested, respectfully explained and didn't insist or forcefully wash Peter's feet, and never demands or forces us to do His will, so also Husbands must respect the free-will of their wives and refrain from attempts to force them through argument or indoctrination.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See Fiction written to expose God's truth.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Peter Models Church-Wife Submission

Bible readers can so easily fall into the trap of inserting current realities into biblical texts. Ephesians 5:21-31 is one such text. The deeper meanings are totally missed by inserting current culture onto the biblical text. Verse 24, for example, is read as:
“Therefore, as the church, which has practiced husband authority & wife subservience for centuries is subject unto Christ, so the wives to their own husbands in everything—especially when the husband is commanding his wife to do something that she disagrees with because it pains, inconveniences, or dishonors her or her children, or appears wrong or of poor judgment to her.”
In spite of what we've read into the text, this is NOT what it is saying.

Since the wives of that day were already submitting to their husbands, Paul had no need to tell them to submit, except perhaps to keep them from getting the idea Paul was handing them authority over their husbands because of the heavy sacrificial servant demands he placed on husbands in verses 24-29. But Paul had another purpose. Because of the teaching of Jesus, he wanted to turn how marriage was practiced up-side-down.

In those days, wives were mere chattel to their husbands. Husbands enjoyed elevated status. Wives held a place similar to that of servants or cattle. They could be dismissed or misused, and were rarely loved by their husbands. They could be sexually desired until their husbands got tired of them, but that is not the same as genuine love. Their job was to serve their husbands and to bear them children, which then were owned by the husbands, but cared for by the wives.

Paul instructed the church to turn to culture on its head and practice the teaching of Jesus instead. He directed the high-status husbands—that is, ALL husbands—to love their wives even as they loved their own bodies. This love was to be so genuine and deep that the husbands were to sacrifice everything for their wives, even to laying down their lives for their wives. Where before the husbands demanded and expected service, they were to humble themselves and serve. Where previously the husbands had dismissed their wives as unimportant, they were now to honor them with high status.

The relationship of husbands and wives in that culture was similar to the relationship between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus, the teacher, the Son of God, had highest status. His followers expected to serve Him and to learn from Him. They saw themselves as beneath Him; He was high above them. If anyone would do the menial job of foot-washing, it would most certainly NOT be Jesus, the Master with high status. Likewise, in that culture, husbands wouldn't be caught dead doing something as demeaning as washing the feet of guests, or serving food. That was what women and servants were for.

But Jesus, the Master with high status, turned male & master privilege up-side-down and replaced them with male (ie husband) as loving servant. In John 13, Jesus, the high status Master, washed the feet of his disciples. This was so against all propriety that Peter protested. Jesus told Peter in v. 7
“What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.”
Jesus was instituting a change in practice: those of high status in the Kingdom of God are to humble themselves and serve those of lower status, choosing the most demeaning tasks for themselves and thus elevating those beneath them to an equal status. Indeed, He calls us His friends and joint heirs. Jesus has lifted us up to His level.

In the same way, Paul commands husbands to lift their wives up to the high status level that is equal to their own. Wives are no longer to be considered disposable servants, but instead they are to be honored even as a servant would honor his master.

Although husbands may have difficulty accepting this, Paul knew wives would also have difficulty with it. Therefore, Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands in everything—especially when the husbands humble themselves to serve. Peter had such difficulty with it, he at first said, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” His language is so strong, we can see him shifting his feet to the side, tucking them out of sight under his robe. That is the same response Paul expected most wives to experience when they saw their high-status husbands lower themselves to serve.

Consider this: I own and operate a house cleaning business. Most of the people I work for are wealthy and enjoy status and privilege far above my own. Most of them are friendly and talk to me as if we are equals, but I am aware the division of status is still there. It is an invisible line I must not cross. I both expect and am expected to serve them. They do not expect to serve me, nor do I expect them to serve me. In fact, I would be horrified if they showed up at my house and offered to clean it. Even if I were disabled, they would be among the last people I would expect to stoop to clean my house.

In a similar way, Jesus was the last person anyone would expect to stoop to wash the guests' feet. Peter was horrified, just as I would be if my clients stooped to clean my house, take out my garbage, or wash my windows. I genuinely would want them off my property and out of my space—even if they were doing it for free. Or especially if they were doing it for free. Them serving me would be so inappropriate as to be gross. Their status says THEY are NOT to get their hands or knees dirty, that is MY job, my status. If they get on their hands and knees cleaning my house while I sit in a comfortable chair, (even if I'm writing a blog post or novel) I would feel so out of place. Their action would reverse our status. Not only would I be hard-pressed to accept it, I would also feel humiliated because their action would suggest I haven't done what is expected of me and now they, my superiors, must do it for me. This is also how a wife in Paul's day would feel if her husband lowered himself to do “women's work.”

This wifely rebellion against the humble sacrificial service of their husbands is what Paul was referring to when he told them to not refuse to submit to their husbands “in everything.” They were already submitting to all the other “everythings.” In the next verses he describes the “everything” the wives will be submitting to. Further, Paul says this is a great mystery, but that he is speaking of Christ and the church. That statement takes us back to the gospels where we see how Jesus interacted humbly with those first followers, raising them to his own high status as heirs of God.

Although a summary reading would lead us to conclude Paul wants wives to subject themselves to every self-serving, husband-knows-best edict of their husbands, a consideration of the context, which includes the gospels, leads us to see Paul would have to talk out of both sides of his mouth if he said on the one hand husbands are to love and sacrifice for their wives, and on the other he told wives to obey their authoritarian husbands—even if we claim it is loving for husbands to take authority over their wives. Even the complementarian teaching of “joyful submission,” shows they indeed are telling wives to be joyful in obeying that which reduces their status to servant or child—a person who has no decision-making power. (Although they would never admit they are anything but equal to their husbands.) Rather, Paul is not talking out of both sides of his mouth, but is reminding wives to NOT rebel against accepting sacrificial servitude from their high status husbands. Instead, they are to accept the service of their husbands whole-heartedly, as Peter did. V 9
“Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”
Indeed, Jesus tells us that He is sending us—and this includes high-status people, particularly husbands—to follow His example.
John 13:12b-17 “Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
In today's culture, washing another's feet may be inappropriate and unnecessary, since we wear shoes instead of sandals. But when husbands honor their wives by elevating them to the status of decision-maker alongside themselves, the action is likely to urge husbands toward sacrificial service in ways they would not otherwise consider—service that is more in sync with the teaching of Jesus and of Paul.

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Complementarian Creation of Double-minded Apostle

Complementarians have reasoned and twisted the Ephesians 5:21-24 writing of the Apostle Paul until they have made him into the double-minded, unstable apostle. At least, if any woman wrote like they claim Paul did, she'd be called illogical, unstable, emotional & double-minded. They claim that after commanding everyone to submit to one another, when the Apostle Paul then commanded wives to submit to their husbands, he was also commanding husbands to take authority over their wives—the opposite of what he commanded in verse 21 and the opposite of what Jesus taught.

If Apostle Paul is such a double-minded man, we should see similar teaching elsewhere. After he tells the entire church to do one thing, he should tell half of them to do the opposite. I looked for that type of teaching elsewhere and couldn't find any, so I had to redefine Paul's letters, like the complementarians do. These should work wonders at bringing husbands and wives into close fellowship with each other, resulting in stronger marriages and fewer divorces.
Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Husbands, sit under the footstool of your wives, that the wives may display their goodly apparel, their fine-broided hair and their costly gold jewelry, bringing glory to themselves and to God.”

Ephesians 5:11-12 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Wives, bless your idolatrous, adulterous, covetous husbands and give praise unto God.”

Colossians 3:9-10 “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds and have put on the new man. Husbands, agree with your wives quickly while it is yet day, lest they trample you under their feet and rend you.”
Ridiculous, I know. But more ridiculous than the reasoning complementarians use on Ephesians 5:21-24? Could it be that by commanding husbands to love and sacrifice for their wives in verses 25-31, Apostle Paul is providing a word picture, showing husbands how to submit to their wives? That would make sense and be in agreement with the preceding verses. Could it be that since all his explaining is about love and sacrifice, that those are the actions that are to come forth from the “husband-head?” Notice that no leadership is mentioned, unless it is the leadership of sacrifice and love. No husband-generated goal to aim for, nor making decisions that the wife must follow is mentioned. Could it be that those are NOT the application of “husband-head?”

It is high time complementarians stop making Paul out to be “a double-minded man, who is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8, and encourage husbands to submit sacrificially and lovingly to their wives and encourage their wives to submit to the love and sacrifice of their husbands, but to “be followers of God” Ephesians 5:1, rather than followers of man.

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, December 11, 2010

Proud Bible Thumpers

A phenomenon I have noticed when Bible reading is that there are New Testament passages that we hear very little about. Ephesians 5, for example, has the same three verses thumped, pounded and hammered, while the rest of the passage is ignored. Those three verses about wives submitting to their husbands are reasoned over to the point that some pastors currently claim they are teaching husband authority.

A passage I read this morning sheds light on this doctrine of men, even though it says nothing about wife submission. The context is a message to servants who are “under the yoke,” teaching the servants to honor their masters in a godly way so that “the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.”
I Timothy 6:3-5 “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
Notice that Paul uses “the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” as the most important guideline that we are to consent to. Clearly that was his guideline, along with “the doctrine which is according to godliness.” Remember, Paul did not consider his words to be scripture. He considered his words as letters which contained advice, direction, & teaching, but not as scripture. The words and teaching of Jesus clearly have top billing in Paul's mind.

With the words of Jesus having such high priority to Paul, what is the likelihood that he would teach anything contrary to the words of Jesus? Would he claim that “the doctrine which is according to godliness” would trump the words of Jesus? In Paul's words, God Forbid! He would never consider such a thing! Indeed, he considered himself an apostle of Jesus Christ. As an apostle, he must adhere to the teachings of his Lord.

Yet, traditional teachers & pastors preach from Paul's letters, teaching as if Paul was directing his listeners to do the opposite of what Jesus taught. Yet Paul, himself, wrote “Be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ,” I Corinthians 11:1. By that directive Paul makes it clear that if anything he says is contrary to the teaching of Jesus that we are NOT to follow him in that teaching. By extension I would add that he meant to include anytime we misinterpret Paul's teaching to counter the teaching of Jesus, we are NOT to follow that interpretation.

What did Jesus teach regarding women and authority? By example He did NOT put women “in their place,” at least not in the place that men had decreed belonged to women. He elevated women and their children instead of classifying them as nuisances, disposable, or unimportant. He healed women, he honored Mary for taking a man's position and NOT serving, and He included women in his inner circle. He chose a woman to evangelize the Samaritans, and did not reject those who came to Him at her bidding. He chose to come to earth through a woman, He chose to “come out” at the temple via the announcement of a woman and a man, & He chose a woman as the first witness to His resurrection. He honored the woman who in an emotional (shall we say “that-time-of-the-month?”) crying jag washed his feet with her tears and anointed him with expensive perfume. He defended her “wasteful” use of perfume, and did not berate or belittle her for making the place “reek to high heaven.”

Jesus said absolutely nothing to even suggest that men were to take authority over women or wives. Instead, He said the entire law and the prophets are based on two rules; to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Further, He specified that we are to treat others as we want to be treated.
Luke 6:31 “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
The two laws are interconnected. If a person does not love his neighbor by treating his neighbor as he would like to be treated, he or she clearly does not love God, either. He has put himself ahead of both God and neighbor (or spouse). Do I want my spouse to give me the right to decide his life for him? To tell me what he thinks is best and then lay his concerns aside, choosing to follow my decisions--even against his better judgment? Absolutely not! Do I want him to give me that kind of power over him? God forbid!! To be handed such corrupting power would be loathsome to me. Therefore, I will not tempt my spouse with such corruption.

On the men's side, do they want women to take power over them? I am convinced they do not. So why are they doing it to women? In particular, why are they doing it to their wives whom they claim to love? Controlling another who is one's equal is how one would treat an enemy, not how one would treat a cherished and respected companion.

Finally, Jesus taught both directly and in principle that we are not to exercise authority over others nor seek to be greater than they.
Matthew 23:10-12 “Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

Matthew 20:25-28 But Jesus called them unto him and said, 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 whosoever 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 life a ransom for many.”

John 13:13-15 ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”

Foot washing was a demeaning task that fell to the lowliest person in the household. It was so lowly that people often refused to do it. (In the house where the woman washed Jesus's feet with her tears, neither the host nor a servant had washed His feet. In His defense of the tearful, perfume-wasting woman, Jesus commented on the host's lack of manners). Peter did not want to allow Jesus, his Lord, Master, Superior, Teacher, and Friend to wash his feet; he saw it as so out of line with propriety and his love for Jesus that he protested. By both teaching and example, Jesus, our Master and authority, taught both male and female to choose the lowliest serving positions instead of ruler and superior positions. We are to follow His example.

Now with Jesus's teaching and example, how could Paul possibly conclude that husbands are to rule and act superior to their wives? His very focus on following the teaching and spirit of his Lord and Master would totally rule this out. Instead, he would teach husbands, especially those who “would be great among you,” to serve their wives through loving them sacrificially as Christ loved the church, giving themselves and whatever they thought would benefit themselves up for her, and to choose the lowliest tasks, which may include washing the feet of their wives or cleaning their wives shoes or boots, cleaning urine from the floor and toilet, changing oil in the car, hand-washing feces and urine from diapers (if the couple has chosen to be green and $ conscious and use cloth diapers), to humbly do whatever job needs to be done, and to do it well and as to the Lord without grumbling, complaining, or power-seeking.

If that is NOT what Paul was teaching, by his own statement, we are NOT to follow him. We are to follow the words and teaching of Christ Jesus our Lord. If any man (or woman) does not consent to following the words of Christ, “he (or she) is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth...

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, December 10, 2010

If Father knows Best Why are Wives Choosing Divorce?

There is a five-fold fallacy in the husband-authority doctrine, and it results in divorce.
First, it requires the very person who is prone to keep himself detached from others to make decisions for them as if he was up-to-date about the details he needs to know in order to make a wise decision.
Second, is the assumption, by both the husband and his peers, that the decisions the husband makes truly ARE best for his family.
Third, is the reasoning that in those “rare occasions” that the husband makes poor decisions, it is enough for the husband to bear 100% of the responsibility (meaning blame) for his decision, neither blaming his wife for her input, nor blaming her for his decision. This focus exposes a belief that the husband's poor decision(s) will harm no one but himself and/or his finances/concerns, that somehow his wife and children are insulated from his poor judgment and will not be effected.
Fourth, is the assumption if the husband isn't harmed by his decision, it was likely a good one, therefore if the wife doesn't like it, she should just submit and get over it.
Fifth, all of this is decreed by God, Himself, and anyone who argues against it is a feminist who is rebelling against God.

With these beliefs, instead of building their marriages on Christ and His principle of the Golden Rule and not taking authority over others, complementarians build their marriages on a foundation of male-promoting gravel that lacks the cement necessary to hold marriages together. Instead of being able to point to a notably low divorce rate, which one should expect from the Christian community, conservative Christians have a higher divorce rate than atheists do. Making matters worse, they blame feminism and female rebellion for their failure and refuse to look at the real cause.

By pressuring husbands to take authority over their wives, complementarians urge husbands (whether or not they realize they are urging them) to distance themselves from their wives in order to rule them. Husbands tend to discredit and devalue their wives and their input, and tell themselves that they are making objective decisions because they know things that women are too ignorant and too emotional to know or decide. Husbands often pat themselves on the back because they “listened” to their wives, even if they already had their minds made up and would be unlikely to value any input from their wives.

The belief in husband wisdom and near-infallibility, blinds Christian men to the multitude of important information that they do not know and have no interest in knowing or considering. Because they think only male-interest information is worth taking into account, they deny the experiences, make-up, and development processes of both wives and children. When they believe that other experiences, perceptions, feelings, etc don't exist in their wives and children, or when they perceive they do exist but must be discounted, and when concrete facts are the only basis for decision-making, husbands limit themselves from pertinent information to such a degree they are LIKELY to make poor decisions. This denial both makes them believe they made the best decision, blinds them to other decisions they could have made, and blinds them to the devastating effects their decisions are making on their wives and children.

Husbands who claim to prayerfully consider the best interests of their wives, defend the right of other husbands to wield authority over their wives and expect them to submit to the decisions of their husbands. They justify this by saying the husband will then be the one to take responsibility and the blame for the decision.

I had a discussion about this with a man recently and pointed out that it was immaterial whose fault it was; the problem was that so often a husband's decision ended up causing major pain, distress, and even damage to his wife and children. He looked startled, as if he had never considered that. He seemed to think that taking the blame somehow justified the harm a husband brought on his famiy through the use of a doctrine that required his wife to lay down what she thought was best and accept her husband's decree as a law she must embrace--even against her will.

The notion of justifying the insistance that the wife must yield herself to her husband's decisions by saying the husband would then take responsibility for his decisions and absolve the wife of all blame totally ignores the effect of the decison on wife and children. They assume the husband alone bears the distress of his disasterous decisions. I have yet to hear any preacher talk about the wife and children harmed and hurting because the husband over-rode his wife's decision and brushed off her advice. They fail to mention that her husband's financial failure forces her to go without and to work extra hard to make up for it. Her husband does NOT carry the blame alone. The community, and especially the IRS, holds her just as accountable, and often more accountable than her husband. But in the case of decisions her husband makes refusing needed medical care or education for the children, his wife and children suffer and work for years to overcome the handicap the husband ordered upon them. This is an uncomfortable truth the complementarians refuse to deal with.

Further, if wives protest the decisions their husbands make, their husbands, pastors, other husbands and even other wives, claim the wives are rebellious. They deny that the reason for the protest is the distress and suffering they and their children are enduring because of the high-handed decisions of their husbands. Again and again, it isn't simply that wives don't like the decisions. It is that they and their children are harmed and even damaged by the decisions. Decisions that range from, 'No, we will not participate in the family gathering on YOUR side,' to 'You and the children will attend a church of MY choice,' to 'I will choose where we eat out every time unless it doesn't matter to me,' to 'No, Junior does not need tutoring, and I certainly will not pay for it,' to 'We will NOT use birth control, and you will satisfy my sex urge anytime I want you to, and you will bear and care for as many children as are conceived by our union, without outside help even if it ruins your health,' and etc, DO harm his wife and children and stunt their growth and cause them unnecessary hardship. Yet, the husband often is not aware of the harm he has caused. Instead, he believes he is a loving and wonderful husband and father, who does what is best for his wife and children. He believes his wife needs to repent of her spirit of rebellion and submit joyfully to her husband's decisions, and often his pastor and church will agree with him.

Finally, the belief that God has decreed that husbands are to take authority over their wives brings us full circle back through the whole fallacy. If God decreed it, it doesn't matter if the decisions the husbands make are wise or if they damage their families. All that matters is that the wives “submit” (meaning obey to the point of agreeing with their husbands and laying aside their own will and beliefs) and that children obey, too (although they are allowed to have their own thoughts as long as they keep them private). If the ill-equipped wife must tutor Junior, she and Junior must devote much more time to the process than it would take for a trained tutor to do the job. The result is that Junior may never learn what he needs to succeed at life, and many chores will be left undone and other children left unattended. She, her children, and her family of origin will be harmed by the family split her husband created, and because she is never allowed to decide anything for herself, she will atrophy in this area, getting slower and less decisive in decisions she must make on her own. The house may get messy, for example, because she cannot decide what to do with things.

The bottom line is that although the Bible not only never tells husbands to take authority over their wives, and also tells them to NOT take authority over others, males teach that it does command husbands to take authority over their wives. They discard valuable knowledge from their wives, including the intimate knowledge that wives have about themselves and their children, and claim their own knowledge is superior. The damage and oppression they inflict is what is driving wives to reluctantly choose divorce. Yet, these husband-authorities refuse to look at the destructive elephant which is so obvious in complementarian marriages. In the words of Caleb in "Fireproof," complementarian husbands are "trampling all over their wives."

Complementarians have what they deserve: a high divorce rate. They can insist that marriage is for keeps and that wives must not divorce, but until they teach that husbands share power, authority, and decision-making with their wives, the divorce rate will remain high and is likely to increase.

Husbands are never commanded to rule or control their wives. Whatever head means, the application is to submit one to another, and for husbands to love their wives, caring for them tenderly as they care for their own bodies, and to love them, giving themselves up as Christ gave himself up for the church. When husbands do marriage the Jesus way, by treating their wives as they want to be treated, which includes not over-ruling them or taking authority over them, wives will be inclined to stay married to their husbands.

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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Frozen Pipe Churches

Many women do not realize the churches they gather with on Sunday mornings are frozen pipes. These women work hard to do the right thing, to obey God, but don't realize the refreshing water of the love of God isn't getting through to them. Psychologically, they huddle up to endure their 'lot in life,' or focus on whatever entertainment is allowed them to cope. But when the word of God is opened up to them, allowing the water of God's love to reach them, they rejoice in the miracle that God actually loves THEM. Yes, they knew He loved them, but they didn't KNOW he loved them. They hadn't experienced His liberating, freeing love. They had only known bondage.

I was one of those women, so I will share my experience. I was taught that as a female, I must give up what I thought was best, because a male decreed otherwise. First, my dad, and then my husband. I tried my best, with God's help, to be as perfect as I could. But I often ran out of energy, and the men in my life constantly complained and put me down. No matter how hard I tried, they refused to define me as a valuable person, or my work as a worthy contribution to home or society. It took me years to acknowledge that their decisions usually made life hard and painful for me. But they denied their nastiness and/or told me that was my lot in life because I was born female.

And then I learned that in the Old Testament, Moses instructed husbands to give their wives a writing of divorcement instead of just kicking them out. Further study helped me realize that through Moses, God had instituted a provision for women to free them from their abusive, adulterous, negligent, or disappearing husbands. And the divorce was to free the women so they could marry a different man, one who would love and care for them as God had intended. In other words, instead of divorce being the height of wickedness, divorce was God's gift to women to free them from hard-hearted husbands.

I hugged this knowledge of God's love to my heart. Then I returned to Ephesians 5 and noticed that husbands are never told to boss, rule, or take authority over their wives. Instead they are told to love and sacrifice for them as Christ did for the church. And the Ephesians 5:21 command to everyone to submit, includes husbands. By taking men's reasoning and doctrine out of scripture, my gut sense that something was wrong with the husband authority/wife servant-child doctrine was backed up with REAL scripture. Indeed, controlling, self-serving husbands had God's censure and condemnation, NOT His nod of approval. The men who told me I must submit to their misery-producing behavior and demands because God had instituted this to be so, no longer had a leg to stand on. GOD had provided women freedom from man's cruelty. Men were the ones who had sold me the gospel of God's disdain for women.

Churches are supposed to be God's pipelines, delivering living water and freedom from oppression to everyone. But instead of winding protective and warming tapes around them to insulate them from the world's contempt toward women (and blacks, Jews, the disabled, the poor, etc.) they embraced the icy scorn of the world, welcoming it into their midst and entwining it like barbed wire into their interpretation of scripture, using human reasoning in the process, and claiming their treatment of women and their elevating of males is God-ordered, even while they claim their demoting and promoting role-rules ARE equality.

Women, wives, God loves you so much He provided divorce as an escape from a damaging and destructive marriage partner, whether the abuse is physical, mental, verbal, sexual, economic, social, spiritual, or whatever. Our God is a God of justice.
The fast He has chosen is to “loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke.” Isaiah 58:6
God indeed has positive plans for you.
Jeramiah 29:11 (KJV) “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

As happened with my frozen pipe today, when you gird yourself with the excellent heat tapes of God's REAL word, the refreshing, living water of God's deep abiding love will come gushing through, causing love, joy, and a sense of freedom from bondage to flood your heart and make you want to dance.

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