Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm Not The Boss Of Me Either

In a previous post I explored some musings on ways of approaching Paul's language regarding wives in his letter to the Ephesians. Some misinterpreted it as an argument for a particular position. In fact I was looking at possible ways of understanding reality (that fit available information) that make positive sense of what Paul says.

In that post I intentionally left out Paul's comments that come immediately after the ones on wives. Paul moves directly into addressing husbands. This separation was intentional. Even though the two sets of comments fit together so well it can be helpful to single them out and apply them to the concerned party: the comment about wives to wives and the comment about husbands to husbands. The reason being that it is so easy for us to use the other comments to indict the other party.
So, husbands are to love their wives as Jesus loves the Church. How does Jesus love the Church? He beats her and yells at her and shames her into doing what he wants right? Wait, no, he gives her orders and sets strict limits on how big her life can be. That isn't quite right either. Oh ya, he pours himself out and lays his life down for her to empower her freedom so that her life can be ever more expansive.

Interesting. This is not the normal male behavior. However it is the normal female behavior, especially in a mother toward her children. This Christ-like giving of self is what mothers do when they carry, birth, nurse, raise, and defend their children. This is pretty consistent among mammals. As for males there is somewhat more ambiguity. For many species the primary danger to the young is the father. For instance, a mother bear will at times need to defend her young from their father because he will eat them. Now, most human males are more highly evolved than bears: they won't actually eat their young. However, neither do they have the oxytocin flood that bonds a mother to her baby. Males are, in the norm, quite able to dissociate from the deep wellbeing of others. (This would be why God compares his love to that of a nursing mother rather than a father watching a football game.)

Men need to be told to lay their lives down. Wait, you say, what about the father laying his life down to save his family in a crisis? Yes, when push comes to shove, most men will behave in such a way. The thing is we are not talking about "push comes to shove." We are talking about normal every day. Taking out the garbage, deciding where to live, conversations about the bills, day to day interaction. It is an active way of living for the benefit and building up of the wife. It is not that the husbands desires are not important, it is that if those desires are not for the increased power and freedom of his wife they are wrong desires. The husband is to act toward the wife as Jesus did toward the Church "sanctifying," "washing," presenting as glorious. This is language that points to the cross. This is not to say that husbands are to be "martyrs" in the pejorative sense any more than Jesus was a martyr in that way. Rather, as Jesus actively and willingly and consciously laid himself down to win freedom and power and glory for his "bride" so husbands are to work actively consciously and willingly for the greater freedom and glory and power of their wives.

One of the snags here is, what does that look like in the concrete? What does the guidebook tell me to do in this situation? You don't get a rule book. You get a command to take something as a guiding principle and then you are stuck doing it live. You are stuck making mistakes and succeeding and working hard to mature and learn from both. One thing you may not do is shallowly decide what is best for your wife and build her into that under the auspices of "doing what is best for her" (as if you have any real clue what is actually best for her.) This move makes me sick when I see it because it is just rank immature selfishness that the man who says it thinks he can masquerade as virtue. Men who say this are not fooling anyone. Your job is not to control or shape or determine your wife, your job is to set her truly free and put your greatest energy into supporting her strengths in the way that she and God think they should develop.

And that, coming from me, a chief among sinners.

Monday, October 1, 2012

You're Not The Boss Of Me

The only bit of wisdom that came out of my father's bitter, hateful, womanizing father is the observation that "all men are *ussy whipped. All that's left is to figure out how to live with it."

I recently listened to a debate that a friend of mine posted between an "egalitarian" and a "complementarian." The two positions are disagreements on the divine mandate of gender authority roles. The first position is that men and women are mutual in structural authority. The second holds that, though equal in other theological categories, there is a power differential of men over women and that this differential is complimentary. Who is the boss of who? This has been an intractable disagreement for some time.

One of the stupidest arguments that the complementarians put forward is the post-fall curse. I mean seriously, in one breath hold to the redemption of Jesus and in the next defend the fallen order that that redemption is supposed to correct? Nowhere does God command that women are not to lead.
Egalitarianists tend to want us to ignore the fact that women and men really are different. This is not for any reason internal to the defense of the position but rather because these differences have been the basis of the historical arguments for subjugation and thus irrelevant to the discussion.

Men are not women and women are not men
. We are biologically complimentary. Even the staunchest egalitarianist will recognize this. I will go further. We are psychologically and emotionally predisposed complementarily as well.

However, hierarchical power structures are not a complementary category (unless you are a Hegelian, in whose master/slave dialectic the one creates the other and the other way around. However even in this case the master is more dependent on the slave for his existence than the slave on the master.)  

Hierarchical power structures are more or less effective ways to run organizations. I have heard people defend hierarchy on the basis of the trinity, saying that Jesus served the Father. Now, by Jesus' teachings on servant authority this would actually make Jesus greater than the Father. It is far simpler to just leave this silliness behind and take the trinity as non-hierarchical and at the same time leave behind any notion of divine mandate for hierarchical power structures in general.

In the creation story of Genesis 1 there is a progression toward higher levels of being. The woman comes last. Who did the serpent go after? What happened when the woman was tempted? The man just bumped along and then blamed the woman. Spineless little puke.

Women are stronger than men
. When women "run" men the men succumb. When men "run" women women submit. This says nothing about leadership abilities. This is an observation.

Paul's imperative in Ephesians calls for the more difficult action for each of the sexes. The man, the constitutionally weaker one, to step up and sacrificially lead. The woman, the one with greater constitutional power, to submit.

Wives submit to your husbands because this requires that he gets his act together. If you lead he will follow and will be unable to lay his life down for you with anything approaching initiative or character.

Now, this in no way condones abuse, which can be perpetrated by either party and constitutes pathology. I am speaking about the normal situation. Normally both parties want the greatest good.

My wife said I could post this.

Here is another post dealing with men.
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