Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wives Submit to Your Husbands For

What a radical word--“for.” Before Jesus and Paul, the rule was simply “wives obey your husbands, no reason necessary.” But Paul, radical as always, gave a reason. FOR the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. For every wife, her husband was her head, her source.

Consider: in Paul's day, marriage was NOT like it is today. Girls married quite young. Their husbands were selected by their parents. These parents did not choose young boys for their daughters; they chose men who were financially able to care for them, men who had established businesses, who had enough money to provide a home and the necessities of life. So most likely, girls of 14-16 were marrying men of 21-30, or even older. These men truly were their source. The basic avenue for the young brides to continue learning was through their own husbands. Although they may still socialize with their peers and older women at the well and at other public places, and they may interact with their parents, they now had responsibilities in the home provided by their husbands. For some brides, the responsibility was to begin taking over the management of the household staff, (big job for a young newbie.) and for other brides the responsibility was to fit into her husband's family's home and pull her share and meet expectations there, while others may have shared living quarters with the bride's parents or lived in a basic, humble dwelling if their husband could afford it.

Consider: these brides were newly wed at the very same stage in life that current teens are rebelling against their parents, wanting to try new things, thinking their parents are foolish, and old fashioned. These young women may have barely known their husbands, much less liked or loved them. But their husband was now their source of shelter, clothing, food, and knowledge. Indeed, Paul in one passage tells wives to “ask their husbands at home.” Husbands were not to maintain their wives as child-brides, but were to provide them with knowledge along with everything else--possibly even business skills. 

This makes the command to husbands all the more profound: “Husbands love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it: that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”

Sometimes the best way to understand a passage is to notice what is missing. Paul did not say, husbands rule your wives, nor did he say husbands train your wives, nor did he say husbands take authority over your wives, nor husbands use your wives, nor husbands discipline your wives. He SAID husbands LOVE your wives, sacrificially. Care deeply for your wives and their welfare. Paul goes on to say “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.”

In other words, a husband is to cherish his wife, like he cherishes himself. It is in that context, that a wife was to submit to her husband, her source. Like a flower turns to the sun for what it needs to survive and grow, so also a wife turned to her husband for what she needed to survive and grow. Paul said as the church looks to Christ to survive and grow, so also a wife is to turn to her husband to survive and grow. Ephesians 4:15-16 “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, Christ: FROM whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

Even as the church turns to Christ, who is the source of energy, growth, and nourishment, so also the young bride turned to her husband for nourishment and growth. Paul's word picture does not show a master whipping, scolding, or starving a slave, but instead shows our Master, Christ, growing us via love, supply, and blessing. It is this route husbands are to follow.

But why stress a husband's requirement to love and supply when the post is about wives submitting? We cannot have one without the other. If a wife is to be a symbol of the church, then the whole of her job must be included. Just as the church is to flee from a fake christ, and refuse to follow him, so also a wife is to refuse to follow a fake husband. A husband who acts as a lord and master instead of laying down his life and preferences in his wife's behalf is a fake husband. He is a fraud.

In John 10:5 in speaking about sheep and using them as a parable/metaphor of himself and the church, Jesus said “A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.” This stranger, Jesus goes on to say is a “hireling,” who does not care for the sheep. In other words, the hireling brings harm to the sheep. Paul uses Jesus's tender care for the church to show what husbands are to do. In putting these together we can extrapolate that a husband who rules and takes authority, rather than loves and provides food and growth, is also a hireling and stranger. He is NOT a real husband, and his wife should flee from him, because he destructive. He is not her life-giving source.

Wives submit to your own husbands, FOR the husband is the source for the wife. When the “husband” acts as dictator, he is NOT her head or source. He is a fraud and a thief. The reason for her submission no longer applies.

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Are You Sure?

This is addressed to pastors, like John Piper, and church folk who heap guilt and sit in judgment on women who report their husbands are nasty.  Are you sure your conclusions are correct? 

Are you aware the details she has told you are ONLY the tip of the iceberg?  Have you asked for the whole story?  I mean the WHOLE BIG STORY?  The one that will take her hours and hours to tell?  Do you have a real sense of what a day, a week, a month, a year is like for her? Do you know how often she cries?  Do you know how often she covers up with makeup the fact that she has been crying?  Have you asked yourself how hard it is for her to not break down in tears in church?  Have you considered why she keeps to herself? Why she acts strange at times? 

I think of Susan Greenfield's book "Would the Real Church PLEASE Stand Up!" where she tells us how weird she had to behave because her husband required it.  Have you considered that the things you are blaming on her, may actually be because of her husband? 

Have you considered that her husband is sinning against her daily?  Major sins, not minor ones.  Have you considered that her husband's life shows ZERO fruit of the Spirit at home?  (Even though he acts like a saint in public.) Do you care that her husband's behavior suggests he may NOT BE SAVED??  (Jesus said we'd know them by their fruit; my paraphrase.)

Are you aware that when her husband APPEARS to show the fruit of the Spirit, he is conning her? And conning you?   

Considering the misery he puts his family through, are you sure they will be able to stay faithful to God?  Are you willing to have that abused woman leave her husband and your church and take her children with her? 

Are you willing to be responsible before God for driving an oppressed woman and her children away?

Are you sure God tells husbands to take authority over their wives?  If so, list the verse(s). 

I repeat:  Are you SURE? 

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, January 2, 2013

Authority and Power, Part 3: The Irony of Husband Authority Reveals a Cover-up

In the world of men one frequently sees competition for power. In sports, for example, one man faces off against another to show greater strength, brawn, stamina, skill, and even intelligence than his opponent. Wrestling is a good example of this competition. In wrestling, combatants are divided into categories based on weight. If a 200 pound man pinned a 300 pound man to the floor, that would be a major victory. In that case, the 200 pound man would be seen as virile and desirable for his strength and cunning. He would be admired, and considered powerful. But if the the 300 pound man pinned a 200 pound man to the floor, it would be small victory for the heavier man. In fact, he may be seen as less than manly, as lacking in strength and prowess for agreeing to such an uneven match.

Strangely, these rules are scrapped in complementarian homes and churches. Not only are husbands considered manly when they triumph over an opponent who is smaller and lighter weight than they, but men are also given much latitude to do what they want to TAKE authority over their wives. In the world of men, the size difference between husband and wife (in most cases) would prohibit the man from attempting to overpower his wife—if she were a man. But somehow, the husband who does not control his tiny wife and dictate to her how things shall be, is seen as lacking in manliness. Complementarians would see it as unmanly—and even cowardly—for him to pick a fight with a man who is the size of the man's wife, but it is manly for him to pick a fight with his wife. If he picked even a verbal fight with a smaller man, he would be seen as a bully. But if he picks a verbal fight with his wife, he is seen as taking his rightful, God-given place and as standing up as a man.

Weird. Illogical.

Wait! One way that could be logical is if men feel more threatened by women than they do by smaller men. More specifically, that they feel more threatened by their wives than they do by smaller-sized men. Now this possible conclusion flies in the face of the testimony of many women who are actually doing their best to submit to their husbands, and then their husbands respond by attacking them either verbally, physically, or any other way. In spite of that contradictory reasoning, we'll consider it anyway. Why would a big man feel intimidated by a female half his size, who is submitting to him and serving him?

Someone has suggested that a woman's ability to conceive and bear a child is so far and above what a man is capable of doing, that men feel inferior and inadequate and have been trying to compensate for their own lack through claiming power and authority—and even superiority—over women. Men cannot bring forth life, no matter how hard they try. For much of history, they have claimed that women are more sinful, less intelligent, less valuable than men. Men often glorify the male erection, claim they are “penetrating” the woman and that their seed also penetrates the woman's egg, thus claiming superiority and power-over for themselves. Yet newer research says the egg blocks sperm it does not want, swallows up the sperm it does want, and then blocks all other sperm from entry. In the same way, it could be said that the woman “envelops” the man, for no one claims to “penetrate” a sleeve or a sock. Perhaps many men are afraid that their posturing is a thin veneer that their wives will easily see through, so they work harder by erecting a wall of power and authority to protect their non-existent superiority, hoping if they make the wall appear thick enough their wives will not attempt to knock on the door, since that would cause the wall to fall down.

Another possibility is that men feel intellectually inferior to their wives. Believable or not, a number of men have confessed to feeling such intellectual inferiority, and therefore they throw the first verbal punch to prevent damage to themselves. Other men have claimed to feel so soft and mushy toward their wives, that they are like teddy bears, totally pliable in the hands of their wives. Therefore, they create conflict in order to steel their hearts and be less pliable. Never mind, that the requests of their wives are entirely reasonable. Being men, they believe they should refuse most of their wife's requests in order to show their power and authority. To these men, their wife's request that they pick up a quart of dish soap when they are going to the deli at the grocery store anyway, is a threat to their manhood. Even though the request is reasonable and sensible, these men interpret it as the wife usurping authority over her husband, and that it should not be tolerated—except that it is a financially sound request which is advantageous to the entire family. So these men apparently feel trapped into yielding to the requests of their wives, when they believe they should be asserting their authority by refusing.

Yet, complementarian leaders claim God is the author of this foolishness. In other words, since many men feel inferior to their wives, or think they are too yielding to their wives, God has decreed (so men say) that men should take authority over their wives. So men twist themselves into pretzels to claim superiority, by any means they can dream up—while denying they are doing so. And they claim the right to whatever means necessary to dominate and control their wives—unless it is illegal according to the state—even though if the same were applied to their relationships with other smaller-sized men, they would be seen as bullies.

Frankly, not only have they made God, our true authority, to appear like a fool, they have done all they could to replace Him with themselves to hide their feelings of inferiority, and have brought shame to the name of Christ, and by extension, to the name “Christian.” Even the Gentiles can see through the veneer and know “husband authority” is ridiculous.

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