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 to read chapter 1 and learn about non-physical domestic abuse.