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Training on Domestic Abuse in Churches: Seminar, Thursday 9/28/17.

PDX Domestic Abuse Seminar, 9/28/17 | RachelShubin.com

The Problem

For the last year and half I’ve kept a short list of resources for domestic abuse victims, and this spring I started working on revising the list to include more churches and faith-based resources. Frequently the church response to abuse situations is so poor that for a victim, leaving an abusive home very often means leaving or being excommunicated from her (or his) church home as well.

Many domestic abuse survivors receive far more loving care and practical help from non-Christians that they don’t know than they do from people who have sat beside them in the pew for years. When that happens, it becomes extremely difficult to remember what the point of church is, and many people who leave never return to any church at all.

Portland is a sizable enough city. Churches that are welcoming to abuse victims and understand the particular struggles they face shouldn’t be too hard to find, right? Churches that have small groups geared toward domestic abuse recovery must be out there, yes? I mean, churches all over the place have resources for drug recovery or grief counseling or divorce. Helping the hurting is what churches are for, right?

Compiling a list of churches that are either up to speed on the unique struggles abuse victims face or that actively have groups geared specifically for them proved to be a far more discouraging endeavor than I anticipated, and the number of churches that actively provide for people in such situations is appallingly small. In the process of looking for churches, though, I came across Pastor Ron Clark of Agape Church of Christ in Downtown Portland. He has been actively working in this field for the past twenty years; teaches Pastoral Counseling and Advanced Pastoral Counseling classes at George Fox, both of which cover a variety of abuse and sexual and domestic violence related issues; and works with his wife Lori on a team that runs clergy trainings three times a year covering abuse, sexual assault, trafficking/prostitution, and pornography.

I emailed Ron and asked him if he knew of any local churches that fit one or both of the above criteria. He sent me short lists for each category (we’ll talk about why they were short in a minute), and we talked a little more about what it means to be a church where victims/survivors can feel safe and why churches that have programs for the abused still don’t always fit into that category. His explanation of the distinction between those two sets is very helpful.

 

From Ron

Churches where victims/survivors can feel safe: Meaning that misogyny is unwelcome, females are encouraged to be safe even at the expense of their marriage, and victims can feel heard. These communities also confront religious leaders who allow abuse to go on in their churches.

We have found that some churches have ministries to the abused but the following problems develop:

  1. Pastors are not trained to help, only a few female counselors.
  2. They have hosted our training but no clergy attend or work with further trainings.
  3. While there are ministries that work with survivors, the pastor either doesn’t preach about DV [RS: Domestic Violence] or still tends to insinuate that divorce is not acceptable to God without clarifying that abuse violates the covenant

This is just our thoughts and does not insinuate that survivors/victims do not receive help. We have had trainings at most mega churches in Portland but we continue to hear from members that they are encouraged to go back to their abuser. While this doesn’t represent the beliefs of all leadership, there still exists a climate that we list as “not safe for those in abuse.” While not threatening it does not tend to confront male privilege, misogyny, or women needing to be safe at all costs.

In an interview for SOJO.net, Ron was asked the following question:

What has surprised or challenged you as you teach this material?

“…our church has partnered with countless agencies and encouraged other churches to host our trainings and have witnessed 2000 people participate in them. However, most attendees are county advocates who want to learn more about working with faith-based clients. Only 5-7 percent have been clergy. I do have a group of ministers who faithfully attend and are now prepared to work with victims, but they are a small percentage of overall participants.”

 

My Thoughts

All of this frustrates me. When I read my Bible, I don’t see Jesus doing any of this. I see him comforting the grieving. Throughout the Bible I see standing up for the downtrodden as a recurring theme. I see the harshest of injunctions levied against violence in both speech (“revilers” in Biblical parlance) and act.

It frustrates me that when I talk to people, they say things like, “Well, I think a lot of times women claim abuse when they just don’t want to be married anymore” and “Well, he shouldn’t act like that towards his wife, but he’s right that her job is to submit to him and she still has to do her job whether he does his or not” and “Well, she’s pretty crazy. I don’t think he’s the problem.”

It frustrates me that people say this when I’ve sat with the wife (or sometimes, though less frequently, the husbands who end up in abusive situations) and talked with her and cried with her and know she has massive, specific, justifiable complaints that are either backed up by witnesses or by the husband’s own admissions or by both. It frustrates me that even when the wife’s complaints are of the type that if anyone other than the person who has promised to love her for the rest of her life were doing them to her, he would immediately be arrested, I can’t defend the wife in any specific way or tell that to the person sitting across from me without breaking the wife’s confidence.

It frustrates me when the complaints are of the type that are completely invisible unless you live with the person but where the domineering behavior is so severe that the wife’s health has spiraled into an entire constellation of stress-related illnesses and mental health struggles so bad that can barely think straight, yet because the results are visible and the cause is not, people see her as unstable instead of as crushed by another person.

It frustrates me when people become so blinded by their own vision of theological perfection that they snip out compassion.

I don’t talk about this stuff in person as much as I did when I first became involved because it makes me angry. I worry that I will end up yelling at someone I care about because I can’t figure out how to graciously tell people to stuff it when they make comments like that, and I don’t think yelling at people promotes any sort of healthy discussion or encourages people to think through things more deeply. Instead I write (often more personal communication than public blogging, but at least some of each), I listen, and I pray.

And next Thursday, I am going to Ron Clark’s seminar on Addressing Intimate Partner Violence From a Faith-Based Perspective so that I can understand better how to recognize bad situations when they cross my path and learn better how to help. Lay people are encouraged to attend the training as well. If you would like to understand the issues and help make your church a welcoming home for those whose own homes are marked by confusion and terror, I hope you’ll come too. Here are the specs:

 

Addressing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) From a Faith Based Perspective

Sept 28 2017 9:00 AM- 3:00 PM

East County Church of Christ
24375 SE Stark St., Gresham, OR 97030

 

Schedule

9:00 Registration and Welcome

9:15-10:15 Sessions 1: Basics of IPV (9:30-10:30)
Dr. Ron Clark, Agape Church of Christ

10:30-11:30 Session 2: Secondary Aggression and Ministry
Stacey Womack, ARMS (Abuse Recovery Ministry & Services)

 

11:30 Lunch available on your own

 

1:00-2:00 Session 3 Panel Discussion: Shame and IPV (1:30-2:30)
Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue Team

2:15-3:00 Session 4: Bridging the Gap Between IPV and Faith Leaders
Dr. Carlos Richard, Tabernacle Church

 

This event is sponsored by the Agape Church of Christ and is a free training. Due to limited seating they ask that all attendees pre-register. There is no charge for this workshop.

 

 

 

This is late notice on my part, to be sure, and I apologize for not getting this out sooner. If you can make it, please let them know asap, but you can still register at the door if you forget (but don’t forget; click that button now and be done with it). If you can’t make it this time but would like to know when the next one comes up, please click here to email the Agape Church of Christ office and ask to be put on the listserv for the next training.

 

Rachel

 

P.S. I also often come across people who seem to think the scope of the problem is being exaggerated. The current data looks much more like it’s vastly underreported, and the stories that are starting to come out from all over have very distinct patterns. Here are a few places to begin further reading. These stories are all consistent with ones I have personally heard myself from Christian women who are or have been in abusive marriages or that I have read from court documentation and survivor stories from Christian women all over the country. 

 

Enough is Enough: Why the Church Has to Stop Enabling Abusive Men – Start here. Gary Thomas speaks at a long-standing Christian conference and is overwhelmed during the break by the quantity of women who come to him describing the horror they are enduring in their homes and asking what they should do. Right now there are 365 comments on this post, and huge numbers of them are from people pouring out their stories and asking for help as well. Take some time to read through them.

An Open Letter to the Church From an Abused Christian Wife – Anna Grace Wood is a Reformed Baptist homeschooling Mom who has been through all of this herself.

Survivor Story – This is a good example of why it often takes women so long to leave and why people who don’t see what happens behind the doors of the home in question respond as though the wife has gone crazy.

I’m Still Here: On Leaving Abuse and Being Ignored in the Grocery Store – What often happens after one does finally work up the courage to leave (also a reason people stay so long, hoping to avoid being completely ostracized).

#WhyIStayed – Short, personal tweets from women on the crushing ramifications of their finally deciding to leave, and why it took them so long to do so.

‘Submit to your husbands’: Women told to endure domestic violence in the name of God – Very thorough ABC News report coming out of Australia, which is currently in the middle of a huge ongoing discussion about the issue of domestic abuse both in the wider culture as well as within the church itself.

 

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Think Your Church is Safe from Sex Abuse? Think Again.

A Review of The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide by Boz Tchividjian

As Protestants, we tend to think of sex abuse cases in church as a problem that doesn’t really happen in our congregations. It’s not our problem. Our people don’t do that or haven’t experienced that. That’s a problem the Catholics have. That’s a problem for those guys way over there. 

The Catholic Reaction

Not only is this not the case, but the cracks are starting to show. While the Catholic church is now entering its third decade of rethinking and reacting to the abuse cases and abusers in their ranks, the very point that hamstrung them initially – that of being a massive, top-down organization bent on protecting themselves – is now working in their favor. The prevention and response policies that they have developed over the years can be organized from the top and then filtered directly down the pole.

My younger two kids are going to a Catholic school this year, and wow! those guys are careful. To do anything at all from helping in the classroom to driving on field trips to volunteering basically anywhere near kids, you have to get a background check and then go to a three-hour training on child safety and protection that requires a refresher with further training every subsequent year your kids attend school. These policies for the school are implemented by the diocese.

In contrast, neither Christian school my kids have attended has required this level of volunteer preparation (or any preparation at all including background checks). Unlike the Catholic organizational system, Protestantism is a slivered mass of denominations and independent churches, none of whom are beholden to or cooperate with each other. When one group produces new policies, none of the other groups benefit, which makes our response time slow and increases the likelihood of abusers falling through the cracks by denomination- or church-hopping.

Help Figuring Out Best Practices

In the process of spending most of the 2015-2016 school year researching and reporting on two specific sex abuse cases in a church setting, which involved an inadvertent crash course in the miserable realities of abuse dynamics, I came across Boz Tchividjian’s organization, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Church Environment). GRACE is a two-pronged organization that both investigates organizations experiencing abuse complaints within their systems (investigations are at the organization’s request) and that provides training for churches on best practices for sexual abuse prevention and response.

Review of The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries by Basyle Tchividjian (Sex Abuse Prevention) | RachelShubin.com

The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries by Basyle Tchividjian & Shira Berkovits

Boz himself spent a decade prosecuting sex abuse crimes specifically in Florida and has amassed a board full of other Christian leaders in the field on both the legal and counseling/psychology ends. To aid church leaders in preparing protection policies for their congregations, GRACE has put out a new book called The Child Safeguarding Policy for Churches and Ministries.

I received a free review copy and have spent the last several days reading it. It’s extremely helpful and covers these and other topics:

—Protecting the children in a Christian environment from child abuse
—The warning signs of child abuse
—Crafting and implement a child protection policy
—Responding to abuse allegations
—Caring for victims of child abuse
—The legal implications and requirements for churches and Christian ministries

While it is easy to think that this material is solely the purview of the Children’s Pastor, that is not the case. Signs of child abuse can be alarmingly subtle, and if a child chooses you as the person they trust enough to disclose their abuse to, that conversation will likely not start off sounding like it’s about what has happened to them. It will start with slightly odd things that are the child’s way of testing whether or not you are a safe person for them to tell. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll miss it and that child will sink back into tortured silence for years or quite possibly the rest of his or her life (well over 90% of children don’t disclose, and of the ones who do, children who were abused by teachers or church leaders typically wait at least ten years before they ever say anything).

The Scope of the Sex Abuse Problem

What about scope? How many people are we talking about? Estimates by the Department of Justice are that 1 in 4  girls and 1 in 6 boys will be abused by the time they turn 18. So, yes. That’s 20% of your congregation since many of those kids are now adults dealing with the after-effects (which don’t look tidy either, by the way. The effects are often so severe that I’ve started thinking that in many cases the resultant mental illness would be more accurately described as mental or emotional injury). If your congregation has 200 people in it, that would be forty of them who have experienced some form of sexual abuse (and that’s probably low because it’s more common in church than even in the general population, and 93% of sex offenders describe themselves as religious. Abusers love churches. Churchgoers tend to want to believe the best about people, so they are very slow to believe someone could actually do such a thing, and are often overly quick to forgive even when abuse is discovered.).

What if 20% of your church was victim to a natural disaster or a targeted scam or industrial poisoning? What if the employment rate in your church was 20% or if 20% had cancer? Would that be discussed from the pulpit? Would we be talking about how to support those 20% and show them love and care? Would we be talking about Biblical responses and how Jesus loved, believed, and cared for the hurting and grieving? You bet! But we don’t do that with child abuse or really abuse of any kind at all. And so it goes unnoticed, unchecked, and the people suffering leave, unloved. The scope of the problem in the Protestant church is at least the size of the problem in the Catholic church (and no, celibacy for priests wasn’t the primary problem. 80% of abusers are married men. Contrary to popular belief, marriage does not provide a protective or curative effect). For the last five years in a row, sex abuse of minors was the top reason that churches were sued.

This is our problem. We are culpable. We are responsible both for our own turning away from victims in the past and for turning towards them in love now and in the future. We are responsible both for protecting children and the vulnerable and for handling abusers Biblically by turning them over to God-appointed authorities, which in the case of criminal activity means the police. We can do better. We have to do better. We shame the very Gospel when we don’t.

For further reading, start by clicking through all the links in this article and reading Anna Salter’s book Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders

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Authority: Is It Really the Biblical Counterpart to Marital Submission?

Authority: Is It Really the Biblical Counterpart to Marital Submission? | RachelShubin.com

Photo Credit: © George G. Shubin (Rachel’s husband)

The other day my husband George burst into the room with his camera in hand and shooed me out to the neighboring field of tall grass. He’d been wanting try taking a golden hour shot using his umbrella flash modifier for fill light, and twilight shots are always a race against the setting sun.

After seeing the final image (to the left there), my Mom commented about me sneezing the rest of the night; but I’m not allergic to grass, and I’ve been taking meds extra faithfully this summer because pollen counts in our area are terrible and I am allergic to cottonwood. So, what if George had asked me to go stand in front of the cottonwood tree for a picture in May when it’s blowing its cotton? Would I have done it?

The Litmus Test

While this is an extremely mild example, this type of question comes up constantly when I talk to people about complementarian/egalitarian issues. When I say I think the Bible talks about husbands and wives each submitting to and loving one another as opposed to husbands leading and wives submitting, they often present a question like this: “If your husband asked you to do {insert some utterly ridiculous/offensive/painful/horrible/dangerous thing here}, would you do it?” I’m not talking about everyday things on the scale of standing in front of a tree; the hypothetical question always involves  some entirely unreasonable request that the inquirer assumes would get an automatic “no” under any other circumstances. The question is a ringer, a Catch-22, and the intent is to trap me into saying the expected “no” so they can then point out that I’m not for submitting after all, mutual or otherwise.

Love – The True Counterpart to Marital Submission

Here’s the problem. That entire line of reasoning is predicated on the idea that the marital counterpart to submission is oppositional, interlocking authority. When I read, I don’t see that at all. When I look at Ephesians 5:22-24, it talks about the wife submitting to her husband in the way that a body is joined to its head. The usage of “head” throughout the entire passage is as a body part, not an authority. There is a Greek word for authority, but Paul doesn’t use it once in this passage, and when he talks to the wives he never refers to the husband as an authority but as a head. A head to a body.

In the verses immediately following, Ephesians 5:25-31, Paul switches from wives to husbands and talks about the husband loving his wife in the way that a head is joined to its body. Paul never once tells the husband to be the authority either or explains what that should look like. What he does tell the husband to do is to love his wife and what that should look like. When I read this passage and the others like it, what I see is not authority and submission as oppositional forces tied together, but love and submission as cooperative forces tied together. Love, not authority, is the Biblical counterpart to marital submission. When I think about how that would play out in real life, the two start looking extraordinarily close to the same.

Metaphorical Usage

Since the same “submit” word is used elsewhere in the New Testament in relation to governing authorities, many people lump that meaning in with marital passages (Rom. 13:1-6 uses the word for authority, not head, to describe the government) . In Ephesians, three verses are spent on wifely submission while the following seven are spent on husbandly love. Three verses comparing a husband to a body’s head and seven connecting a wife to that head’s body. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about how your physical body should submit better to your head or how your head should love your body better? The overriding image seems to be one of unity, not hierarchy.

This extended metaphor doesn’t show up with passages on governmental structures, nor do those passages have counterpart exhortations in their sections for the government to love its subjects (although the parts of the Bible written to rulers definitely requires that in the forms of  justice and mercy); but Paul does use the same type of body metaphor in I Corinthians 12:15-27 to explain relationships within the church, and it is always recognized as a metaphor for unity there. The teaching of love (not authority) and submission being the operating structure within the body of Christ is everywhere in the New Testament (more on most of this here). With that backdrop in mind, the problem with the “If your husband asked you xxx?” becomes clearer.

Bad Presuppositions

“Would you do xxx?” is the wrong question. Not only is it the wrong question, but it is asked of the wrong person. If a wife comes into the pastor’s office or if she elsewhere complains that her husband is asking her to do things that are not loving toward her, the response should not be to ask her why she isn’t doing them. The question should be put to the husband asking why he would request or require such a thing of her in the first place.

When you see the marriage dichotomy as authority/submission, the “If your husband…” question makes sense because any refusal is a challenge to his perceived authority. When you see the marriage dichotomy as love/submission, the question makes no sense because love would never ask someone to do such things in the first place and it would certainly never require compliance if the question were posed. The questionee is not the problem; the questioner misunderstands both his own duty to love and how beneficial authority works in general and in what situations it applies.

My Answer to the Question

So, if George asked me stand in front of the cottonwood so he could take my picture, would I do it? The first and arguably the most important point is that he wouldn’t ask me to because George loves me. If he did ask me, I would say, “Umm, George, my eyes will swell up and I’ll be sneezing for days if I stand there.” At that point he would say, “Oh! Sorry, I forgot. Let’s do it in the field instead.” If later he still wanted a shot by the tree, he would just find someone else to use for the shot. No power struggle over who is not exercising their authority correctly or who isn’t submitting properly because the issue is not one of authority. It is an issue of love.

 

  • Final note: If George suddenly became other than who he is and insisted upon my standing in front of the allergy tree after I reminded him that it would make me sick, I would tell him “no.” For us, this would be a complete rarety; however, if your spouse (male or female) consistently asks you to do unreasonable things that put you in danger or show blatant disregard for your personhood in mind or body, please consider reading through a screening for abuse and getting help if necessary. 
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Thoughts on Hymns

Our culture is obsessed with musical superstars. We see American Idols high and lifted up as the pinnacle of vocal prowess. The commercial music industry has furthered the idea that those who can truly sing should be rewarded with recording contracts, while others are better off sitting and being spectators. Those who love to sing but feel they are lacking in talent will relegate themselves to singing along with the radio, or only sharing their voices with an audience of shampoo and conditioner bottles.

~From Everyone Can Sing: How to Stop the Non-Singer Epidemic in Our Churches

 

Found this great article the other day that talks about one of the huge things I like hymns: they aren’t riffed or ad-libbed, which means everyone knows what they are supposed to be singing and when and are therefore able to more fully participate. Hymns are far less repetitive, and the lyrics are usually much more interesting and thoughtful to sing. Plus, the lyrics return to you in times of struggle or rejoicing, and you have a way to express through song thoughts or emotions that are often otherwise inexpressible or very difficult to articulate. Hymns gift you a beautifully complex language of worship.

Even in churches that only sing hymns occasionally, those seem to be the songs that get the most congregational (*not* audience) participation. Non-dirge, updated arrangements that still manage to retain the melody are showing up more and more, and the Gettys exist. I hope this means a church music renaissance is on the way.

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21 Problems with Wilsonian Submission in Marriage

21 Problems With Wilsonian Submission in Marriage | RachelShubin.com

This post is for Angie, my friend. Last week Doug Wilson posted his 21 Theses on Submission in Marriage, which I reposted on my Facebook wall with a short preface. I had no intention of addressing anything in Wilson’s post directly because I have a whole pile of other posts sitting around waiting for me to finish them, I have 7,000 other things going on including leaving for camping on Tuesday (yay, summer!), but mostly I just get tired of saying the same thing over and over.

However, then Angie asked me which points of Wilson’s post I particularly objected to and why (I hope you know I love you, Angie!). Argh! So… here I’ve responded to his post point by point with his quote first and my comment following:

  1. The teaching of Scripture on this subject is perspicuous and plain. What God requires of us in our marital duties is taught in multiple places, and not in obscure ways.

  2. I would agree that the teaching of Scripture is plain and taught in multiple, unobscure places were it not for the fact that people see so many different things when they look at what’s written. What I see is that kindness, deferring to each other, and mutual respect are the laws of love but that remedy is provided for the damage that accompanies hardness of heart. What I do not see are super clear marital duties cut tidily down gender lines.

  3. We live in a time when honest exegesis is routinely threatened with calumny, and there are frequently honors and rewards for dishonest exegesis. It should not be surprising that we are getting less and less of the former, and more and more of the latter.

  4. Oh, yes. This one I agree with.

  5. Natural revelation teaches us the natural submission of the wife to the husband. These realities are in our bones, and the revolt against them lies at the foundation of our current cultural madness.

  6. HAHAHAHAHA! No. “These realities are in our bones.” HAHAHAHAHAHA! What does that even mean? Maybe when Adam was separated into two people, the parts that were removed (some say ribs and others say flesh) and fashioned into Eve magically switched from authority bits to submit-o bits during the transfer.

  7. The scriptural requirements are entirely consistent with this natural revelation. The God who created the world, and who fashioned us in His image as male and female, is the same God who inspired the writers of Scripture. Whenever natural revelation and special revelation appear to conflict (they do not ever contradict in fact), we should submit to the express words of God. But in this case, there is not even an apparent contradiction.

  8. See #3, upon which #4 is predicated.

  9. The Bible does not require a universal submission of women to men, or the necessary submission of any given woman to any given man. The Bible requires women to be submissive to their own husbands, which is a protection against having to submit to men generally. Further, because no one can serve more than one authority, this scriptural teaching amounts to a prohibition of a woman submitting to other men. Nor does Scripture require a new absolute submission to her husband. No authority in this fallen world is absolute, and includes the authority of a husband. When the authority of a husband turns rancid, a wife should receive the help of fathers, brothers, friends, and/or elders to help her stand up against it. I have been involved in this sort of intervention more than once.

  10. Ummmm, what now? I am glad that Wilson recognizes that there is no universal submission required of women to men in general nor absolute submission of women to their own husbands. However, is sentence three trying to reference Matthew 6:24 where it talks about how no man can serve two masters (that’s what this sounds like)? Because that passage is in no way a proof text for husbandly authority. The two masters presented in that passage are God and money, not one man you’re married to or every other man that you’re not married to. If you are going to try and smush husbands into that equation, then your two options for masters would have to be God or husband, and I hope very much that you can figure out which one loses in that equation. If that’s not the passage Wilson has in mind, perhaps he could include references to where he’s getting this stuff (but then he’d have twenty-one points all referring to the same three passages: Eph. 5:22-24, Col. 3:18, and I Peter 3:5. That is a monster amount of inference from such a small sample.)

    The other weird thing is that Wilson is referencing the authority of the husband, but if you’re going to talk about wifely submission as per the three verses to wives in Ephesians 5, the counterpart section of the following seven verses there written to men say nothing at all about the man leading or his authority or any of that. What it does talk about is the man loving and caring for his wife as if she were one of the most integral of his very own body parts, which is exactly what Adam says upon Eve’s creation in Genesis 2:23-24 . So the problem isn’t when the authority of a husband turns rancid. Nothing is said about that. The problem is when his love turns rancid. Nice that Wilson at least acknowledges that a woman can ask for and expect help in such a situation.

  11. At the same time, in a healthy society, if wives are generally submissive to their own husbands, there will be a cheerful deference to the leadership of men generally, a reality to be welcomed and not resented. This is a deference to the fact of male leadership, not the quality of it. When male leaders are tyrants, fools, and scoundrels, godly women will have as much objection to it as godly men do.

  12. Wasn’t he just saying in #5 that submission to husbands is a protection against having to submit to men generally? Then why on earth are we now excited in #6 about women having a cheerful deference to the leadership of men generally? There is no fact of male leadership in the sense that men are the special chosen ones or most suited from their general manly makeup to lead.

    The Bible is full of women who lead in multiple roles (see my last post for several of the Old Testament ones: Holy Women Who Hoped In God. I haven’t made it to the New Testament ones yet). Wilson somehow conveniently deletes those from his brain or recasts them as irrelevant so that he can promote this whole other idea that men should always be the leaders of all things everywhere all the time forever. He says in one part that that’s not a plus and then three sentences later that it is.

  13. The requirement of submission within marriage does not prohibit the occasional circumstance when a woman in civil society finds herself in a leadership role over men. Deborah, Esther, and Lydia come to mind. At the same time, when feminine leadership becomes widespread and common in a society, it is not a sign of progress at all, but is rather a sign of cultural decadence driven by male fecklessness.

  14. Nice of him to throw a hat tip to Deborah and Co., but where in the Bible is the notion from that women leaders in general are a sign of cultural decadence driven by male fecklessness (answer: this notion is extrapolated from one verse: Isaiah 3:12, which laments the foolishness of the young King Ahaz and the women who were encouraging him in wickedness. This does not seem to be a directive for all time)? Men and women seem to make good and bad leaders pretty evenly.

    Neither has a lock on good or bad leadership, and I don’t see anything saying female leadership means men aren’t doing their job (not even Barak, who was an excellent commander under Deborah and who understood her position so well that he refused to go out without God’s anointed by his side). Maybe it just means some human people have found some capable allies or leaders who also happen to be women (Oh horrors!).

    You don’t see as many women in leadership positions in Western history not because we are somehow congenitally unsuited or incapable but rather because for most of history and right up until a hundred years ago even in our own country, men routinely prevented us from holding such positions or accessing any of the education that would prepare us for filling them effectively.

  15. In Christian theology, there is no tension between authority and submission on the one hand, and essential equality on the other. God the Father is the eternal Father to the Son, and yet the Father and Son are equally the one true God. The husband is the head of his wife, and yet they are one flesh. Men and women stand on level ground when it comes to being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), when it comes to the fact of our fall into sin (1 Cor. 15:22), and when it comes to our position in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Men and women are clearly equal in these senses, and so the teaching of the Bible elsewhere on the submission of a wife to her husband means that submission to an equal is not an incoherent concept.

  16. No and yes. First, Wilson is mixing the metaphor in Eph. 5 with the object the metaphor explains. The two primaries are husband and wife. The metaphor for those two are head and body. A head and a woman don’t join together as one flesh. A woman already has a head, so now she would be a human with one head plus an extra head.

    This head/body metaphor is easy to get confused for English-speakers because our English idiom has head meaning both “thing that sits on top of your neck” and “boss of an organization.” So, when you say the husband is head of his wife, yet they are one flesh, that is combining two separate metaphors into a new monstrosity that doesn’t make sense (hence, Wilson’s insertion of the word “yet.”) When you pair the metaphoric components correctly, it makes sense. A head and a body join together because they are one flesh. This is how the husband is to view and love his wife: as part of his very own being. That’s why submission to an equal is not an incoherent concept.

    The other part of this answer that needs commenting on is the beginning two sentences about Christ’s eternal nature and how that plays out with equality and submission to the Father. Wilson isn’t as explicit on the subject here as he has been in the past because last summer the blogosphere got into a massive debate about the idea of Christ’s subordination to the Father and what that means and how it might or might not relate to marriage. I’m not going to cover any of it now because of the enormous volume written on the subject and because Rachel Miller has already done a lovely synopsis of the main points as outlined by Wayne Grudem and the problems with those points if you are interested: Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS).

  17. Women have a deep creational need to be loved and led, so that they might submit and follow, and men have a deep creational need to be respected and followed, and when these needs are thwarted or otherwise frustrated, the end result is deep unhappiness for both sexes.

  18. s just making up stuff. All people, both men and women, have a deep creational need to be loved and respected. All people at different points in their lives need to be led or followed. People of both sexes who are in grief or crisis frequently need someone to come alongside them, take them by the hand, and gently lead them back to safety and life.

    People who can see the way out of the darkness that surrounds them and can see the trail forward frequently become hugely frustrated when they can’t save their loved ones from the grief they are lining up for and often unwittingly signing their families up for as well. This has nothing to do with gender. I completely agree, though, that when these needs are thwarted or otherwise frustrated, the end result is deep unhappiness for both sexes.

  19. At the same time, because of the curse that followed the Fall, women have a deep resistance to dutiful submission, even though such submission would lead them into the joy and true satisfaction that comes from obeying God. It may or may not improve the marriage (depending on his sin issues), but it will most certainly improve her walk with God. The prophecy that her “desire shall be for her husband” was not speaking of romantic getaways, but rather predicting that there would be a struggle for mastery. So instead of trying to gain mastery over her husband, she should struggle to gain mastery over this besetting impulse within herself.

  20. No. The translation of the Hebrew verb in Gen 3:16 is not especially clear, and worse than that, the idea that that verb means a wife is going to try to master her husband is a recent development that was thought up by Susan Foh in 1975. You can read more about both the historic view(s) and Susan’s view along with the strengths, weaknesses, and ramifications of each here: Problems With a New Reading of an Old Verse.

    And what is the rest of that verse? The part Wilson leaves out? “Her desire shall be for her husband, and he shall rule over her.” If your view is that the woman’s curse is that her husband shall rule over her, then why are we not trying to overcome and roll that back like we do garden weeds and childbirth pain? If your view is that the woman’s curse is that she wants to rule over her husband à la Susan Foh, well that seems more like a curse on men than on women.

    If your view is that the curse is that each will want to rule the other, again à la Susan Foh, then first, that’s a curse on both parties as opposed to just on women, and the remedy for that is not giving one side more power and the other side less but is encouraging both sides to loving, respectful cooperation with each other. I don’t think our job of rolling back the curse is helped by institutionalizing, codifying, and requiring adherence to the terms of the curse itself. We don’t do this in any of the other parts of life that were broken in the fall.

  21. The Bible does not teach husbands to enforce the requirement that was given to their wives. Since true submission is a matter of the heart, rendered by grace through faith, a husband does not have the capacity to make this happen. His first task is therefore to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He is to lead by example.

  22. Oh look! We agree on this one.

  23. The fact that husbands cannot mandate or manufacture this does not make it any less mandatory. Wives are to be submissive to their own husbands in everything. The marriage service rightly includes a vow for the bride to obey her husband.

  24. And we’re back to disagreeing. First, the Greek verb used regarding women is never obey except in one case, and that is found in I Peter to describe how Sarah obeyed her husband and called him Lord (hilariously, the cross reference for that is Genesis 18:12; go read it!). The verb for obey is used exclusively with children and both verbs are used regarding servants. Even worse, the form of the verb used with women implies that her deferring is a voluntary act on her part.

    The connotations of the passage overall are nowhere near as forceful as Wilson makes them out to be, and the assertion that to be Biblical, a wedding must include a vow for a bride to obey her husband is just pure fabrication. Nothing in the Bible specifies wedding vow terminology.

  25. The relation of head and body is a constant relation, one that does not come and go. It is not the case that the husband has mere tie-breaking authority.

  26. I’d like to know what he’s trying to say by the second sentence. The husband doesn’t have mere tie-breaking authority? What then are the Wilsonian limits to a husband’s authority? My very careful research does seem to indicate that one’s head and one’s body are integrally connected to each other. Mine are pretty inseparable from each other anyway. See #21 for more on that.

  27. Liberty for Christian wives cannot be enjoyed outside of their appointed sphere. A woman who rejects her obligation to love, honor and obey is like a bird who has thrown away the “constraints” of having wings.

  28. *sigh* What exactly is Wilson supposing is a woman’s “appointed sphere”? One can love and honor one’s husband without spending her life catering to his every whim. One can pursue business or art or theology (!) or teach or be a firefighter or any number of other wonderful things without having her wings lopped off. I know wonderful, happily married women who have children and do every single one of these things (even the firefighter). Has he read Proverbs 31? That woman does everything!

    The ones who are most successful at them and happiest are the ones whose husbands are cheering them on, giving them wings. The same is true in reverse. Husbands do well when their wives cheer them on. This is not a one-directional, gender or role-based requirement about appointed spheres and obligations. All people do generally better when the people they love the most encourage and support them.

  29. Submission is an erotic necessity. The abandonment of this basic marital responsibility is the cause of much unhappiness, and has also been a cause of the resultant pursuit of erotic delusions offered by multiple partners or by various perversions.

  30. Song of Songs; I Corinthians 7:1-6 – bedroom equality for the win! If you want to say submission is an erotic necessity, at least have the good grace to qualify it as mutual submission. Carrying on about how C.S. Lewis says it does not improve Wilson’s usage of it.

  31. Submission practiced poorly does not discredit those who practice it well, and neither does it vindicate those who do not attempt it at all. And conversely, the decision to accept the Bible’s teaching on this subject does not obligate one to defend the many appalling things that are done in the name of following the scriptural pattern. A math student who does all his problems wrong and the student who refuses to do them at all have far more in common with one another than they do with the student who did his assignment properly and turned it in on time.

  32. Sure, nice, uh huh. I mean it would be if we were in any way talking about the same thing.

  33. The liberation of women was a false flag operation. The true goal was the liberation of libertine men, and in our day this was a goal that has largely been achieved. These were men who wanted the benefits for themselves that would come from easy divorce, widespread abortion, mainstreamed pornography, and a promiscuous dating culture. The early twentieth century was characterized by the Christian wife. The early twenty-first century is characterized by the tattooed concubine. And these sons of Belial have the chutzpah to call it “progress for women.”

  34. What? Whose goal was the liberation of libertine men? Is he saying that the feminist movement was really instigated by men so they could sleep around without consequences even more? If so, maybe he could lay off the women for like thirty minutes or so and go after the people he thinks are the actual culprits. If not, then this entire argument is null.

    Also, the early twentieth century is when the first-wave feminist movement really picked up steam, which is why I now have the right to vote, own property, attend university, sign legal documents, and have legal status of my own. Second-wave feminism made it easier and more socially acceptable to start my own business and for spousal battery and spousal rape, while both still common occurrences, to be far less socially acceptable than they were up until the early ’70’s.

    John Wayne spanks women on screen in not one but two movies as late as 1963 — Maureen O’Hara in McLintock! and Elizabeth Allen in Donovon’s Reef. In Wilson’s follow-up post on wife-beating, he includes a picture of Ricky Ricardo spanking Lucy. This was apparently such a common part of culture at the time that it was thought of as hilarious even during the time of Wilson’s own living memory. Again, I am grateful that that has become disgraced in our culture, and I look forward to the day when it is not only disgraced but disappears entirely.

    When I look at what’s going on today, I see hope. While many of the younger people seem truly bewildered by their own sexuality and how to approach it or what to do with it, I think that too is a pendulum swing. Abortion rates went way up after legalization but have been consistently dropping for a couple of decades now and continue to do so even faster with improved ultrasound technique, education, and loving care of pregnant women. After a huge spike in divorces following changes in divorce law, the divorce rate too has been dropping for almost the same length of time as abortions.

    So, why do I see hope? Because while the young people are a bit dazed by sex, both men and women of the upcoming generation seem to be improving dramatically on friendship and caring for one another in each other’s hurts and joys, and they seem to be waking up to and standing up to the sidelining, ignorance, and violence that has weighed down their mothers, sisters, and loved ones for far too long. There are those who are still perpetrating and excusing such things as there have always been, but the fact that it is being noticed and that there are people working to change it is encouraging.

    That caring for each other is a great seed for relationships and an excellent foundation for changing what needs to be changed. I think at some point the culture at large will settle down again about sex. That will probably coincide at least partially with when men stop seeing us women as colonizable house-cleaners and start working beside us as allies, equal in strength and wisdom. That’d be nice.

  35. The general dominance of men over women is inescapable. And so this means that when godly rule (via submission in the home) is relegated to the margins, it will be replaced by an ungodly domination over women everywhere else. We cannot succeed in placing men and women on the same footing. But the attempt to do so can most certainly result in Bruno taking his showers at the YWCA.

  36. No and yes (mostly no). Wilson certainly can’t succeed in placing men and women on the same footing because he apparently can’t even conceive of such a thing in his own mind and therefore will never bother trying to help it come about. If you are truly interested in preserving women from ungodly domination, which is clearly a problem, a good starting place would be asking them what they need and then joining them in their efforts instead of telling them what you think they need.

  37. The God who gives us our commands is the same God who designed and created us. His commandments are therefore good, righteous, and true, and they fit perfectly within the creation order. As wives seek to learn how to live these principles out, they are trying to overcome sin. They are not trying to overcome their nature. Rather, they are growing up into their true nature, which is the only liberation that matters.

  38. I actually like this one. God did design and create us, and his commands are good and righteous and fit with how and what each of us were designed and created for. As we wives and mothers and singles and women learn how to live these things out and overcome the sin and temptation to not use the gifts God placed in each of us, we are growing into our own true nature, which is the only liberation that matters.

    I’m pretty sure that that’s not what Doug is trying to say by “creation order.” That is complementarian code for “men were created first, therefore {insert something about authority or submission or whatever is convenient here}”. To which I say… go find me some firstborns in the Bible who that has worked out for. How about this? I’ll list off a few prominent people who are not firstborns: Abel, Seth, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Joseph, King David, King Solomon. Jesus was the firstborn of Mary but is also referred to as the second Adam. Also, the last shall be first. God uses whomever He wants and doesn’t seem to give a hoot about where they fall in the birth order. Okay, your turn.

  39. Submission that is invisible is not really submission at all. As submission is cultivated in the home, it needs to be expressed. It cannot exist as a set of hidden resolves or good intentions. Respect must be verbalized, and the demeanor of submissive deference must be plain to everyone in the home.

  40. “Respect must be verbalized, and the demeanor of submissive deference must be plain to everyone in the house”???? Ugh. Guess occasional iron-sharpening is the purview of someone else because we’re too busy making sure even the kids can see how well Mom is verbalizing her expressions of submission. Does Wilson even read the stuff he writes? Does he have the slightest idea how that comes across to women (and boy do I hope there are some men who find that appalling too)? I’d say he can’t possibly mean that except that he writes stuff like this all the time, so it’s pretty clear that he does.

  41. For each one of these theses, there is of course a corresponding set of responsibilities for the men. Not only so, but the failure of men to conform to God’s pattern has been more spectacular than the failures of women. But I am not listing those responsibilities here because we live in a time such that whenever submission is mentioned, we rush to explain, qualify, contextualize, and otherwise assure the world what we don’t mean. We “explain away” feminine responsibilities today far more readily than we do with responsibilities for men—and this is part of the false flag move which consistently lets men off the hook. If wives don’t have to follow, then men don’t have to lead. We have done this so much that scarcely anyone knows anymore what we do mean by submission. So I am just going to say that the Bible teaches submission for wives, and it is glorious thing.

  42. Oh. My. Gosh. So, men are worse at following God’s pattern than women are, but instead of spending a correspondingly appropriate amount of time correcting them for this, Wilson constantly harps on how lousy women are at submitting, and that is somehow not letting men off the hook??? THAT MAKES ZERO SENSE. (Yes, that was all caps because I was yelling at my computer screen.) As previously mentioned, the corresponding part for husbands is NOT maintaining authority over their wives but rather something else entirely. I’ve written about that here: Ephesians 5, Part 2: The Head and the Body.

Doug Wilson is a prolific, charismatic guy with a sizable following. I wish he were using that platform to preach respect and love flowing both directions in a marriage instead of constantly promoting authority over and subordination of wives.

Well, Angie, there you go. I wrote this post mostly for you and partly for the other women and men who have watched me shift my views so much over the last few years and wonder what the heck has gotten into me. I sure hope this answers your question because if not, my Wilson quota has been filled for at least the next six months.

12

Holy Women Who Hoped in God – I Peter 3:5

Holy Women Who Hoped in God - I Peter 3:5 | RachelShubin.com

Image Credit to Ariel Lustre

I’m tired. After reading yet another round of blog posts about wives submitting, submitting more, and oh yeah, are you really submitting enough, I’ve just had it, particularly when the hypothetical situation presented in the post has all the hallmarks of being an abusive one. I’m not going to link to the particular post because it’s irrelevant. It’s not an anomalous post. It’s the same post I’ve seen over and over for years with different fictitious names attached to the made-up characters.

Is your husband throwing things and screaming obscenities at you and the toddlers? Submit more, be extra sweet to him, and tell everyone how great he is. That’ll soften his heart and fix him right up. See? I Peter 3 says so, particularly verses 5 and 6 (substitute Eph. 5:22-23 or Colossians 3:18 if you need some other passages to cherry-pick from. I’ve written on Eph. 5 here). If it’s an Abigail situation, you can leave, but right up until he tries to kill you or asks you to do something illegal, the Bible says you have to obey him and win him by your quiet demeanor. Out of the entire compendium of Scripture, I can’t imagine why these verses are the ones that get shoved at heartbroken, terrified women, but that’s a topic for another post (which I am working on).

Anyway, this particular post went with the I Peter passage for its proof text, and verses 5 & 6 caught my eye:

 

So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.

 

A couple years ago I did a fair amount of research on Sarah, which I’ll go over in Part 2 (the cross-reference here is hilarious), but this time around I got to wondering about the “holy women who hoped in God.” Hmmm, what holy women are we talking about? If the Biblical ideal is a gentle, quiet, submissive woman who cheerfully obeys her husband’s every word (or father’s or whatever authority is around) even if she disagrees with it, and if Peter is pointing his readers to their examples here, then there should be examples to follow of women like this all over the Bible, right? Shouldn’t be too hard to find. Let’s take a look at most of the prominent and some of the obscure women of the Old Testament who that are either generally thought of today as good examples or who are referred to in complimentary terms elsewhere in the Bible. Let’s find all the submissive women!


Rebekah?

No. Rebekah goes directly against Isaac’s wishes to give Esau the inheritance after the Lord specifically speaks to her while the twins are in the womb and tells her that the elder with serve the younger. God tells her that Jacob is the one, but Isaac wasn’t going with the program. After Rebekah tricks Isaac into giving Jacob the inheritance and gets Jacob out of the county before Esau kills him, not only is she not censured for any of this deception, but she is one of only three people in the Bible mentioned as willing to “take the curse” on themselves for the sake of God’s chosen people. The other two are no less than Paul and Jesus himself (fascinating article by Anne Vyn about this point and the rest of Rebekah’s story here).  (Genesis 27:1-28:2)

Rachel?

No. Jacob consults her and Leah both on whether to move or not even after God tells him he has to go. Jacob makes no commands, demands, or even requests for them to go with them. He explains the situation, and then his wives mull it over and respond that this is acceptable and coincides with their own reasons for going. The conversation ends with Rachel and Leah telling Jacob, “So do whatever God has told you,” which sounds very much like permission and assent that they will go as well. It’s an excellent example of mutual cooperation, and this is in a situation where God clearly commanded him to go! (Genesis 31:1-16)

Tamar?

HAHAHAHA! No. After her husband dies and his next brother down gets himself all smited up for sleeping with her and then purposely doing the pull-out routine so he doesn’t have to provide her with an heir as was the legal deal at the time (can’t be sharing the inheritance!), Judah (Tamar’s father-in-law) refuses to fulfill his promise to give her his last son so she can bear a child. Choosing the obvious solution to the problem, she dresses up like a prostitute and tricks Judah into sleeping with her without him figuring out it was her.

When she gets pregnant with Judah’s child, he tries to have her executed (by burning!), but she turns the tables on him when she proves the child is his. Not only is she not censured in any way for this, but Judah specifically says that her behavior is more righteous than his. And… not only that, but their son ends up in the line of Christ, and Tamar herself is the first of only three women that Matthew mentions by name in his genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1 (not counting Mary).

Have you ever heard a sermon on Tamar? I haven’t, although now I really want to. I woke up this morning with a whole theory about her story, which at first blush seems like a super weird one to be pointing at and saying, “Yeah, that woman was great!” Anyone else heard a sermon on this Tamar (not the other one, David’s daughter who gets raped by her brother)? (Genesis 38; Matthew 1:3)

Israelite midwives?

No. They disregard royal edict and save bunches of boy babies from slaughter. (Exodus 1:15-22)

Jochebed (Moses’ mother)?

No. She also disregards royal edict and saves baby Moses by sending him down the river in a basket to hide his identity, which is a terrifying option just to consider. (Exodus 2:1-3)

Miriam?

No. She was brave even as a child when she arranged for Moses’ mother to nurse Moses for Pharoah’s daughter after Pharoah’s daughter found baby Moses in a basket among the reeds (Exodus 2). Later she was a Prophetess and a pretty big deal of a woman, leading alongside Moses and Aaron after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Managed to get her own song into the Bible. (Exodus 15; Numbers 12)

Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah?

Never heard of them? They were Zelophehad’s five daughters who convinced Moses to give them a portion of their father’s inheritance after he died instead of passing it all on to their uncles. These women are mentioned five times in the Old Testament. (Num. 26:33; 27:1-7; 36:1-12; 1 Chr. 7:15; Josh. 17:1-6)

Achsah?

Don’t know who she is either? Achsah was Caleb’s daughter, who requested an inheritance of land from him. When he agreed, she then asked him for that other part over there with the streams on it too, which he also gave her. (Josh. 15:16-19)

Rahab?

No. Rahab was a hooker from Jericho who become traitor to her own people by protecting the Israelite spies. She manages not only to not get herself killed by either side in the process but saves her entire family as well. She too was a direct ancestor of both King David and Jesus, and Rahab the foreign-born prostitute is number two of the three women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ. (Joshua 2; Matthew 1:5)

Ruth?

Weeeeell, acting on a little plotting advice from her mother-in-law, Ruth secures herself a new husband by snazzing herself up, putting on perfume, and then sneaking over to the threshing floor on threshing party night after Boaz is fed, properly wine-ed up, and asleep, which means she can curl up beside him on his hay bed and ask him to marry her when he startles himself awake. She is the third and last woman to get a nod in Matthew’s genealogy. Did I mention that Rahab was Boaz’s Mom? The guys in that family seem to like strong foreign women who graft themselves into Israel. Interesting that these three women – Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth – are the ones who make it into the genealogy (Ruth 3; Matthew 1:5).

Deborah?

No. Deborah judges Israel faithfully and leads it to success in war. Her reign is followed by 40 years of peace, and she is the only judge with such a strong record. Even though Barak was the general, Deborah called him out when he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing, and Barak even begged her to come along to the battle even though she said his glory would be given over to a woman if she did (see Jael below). Deborah, not Barak, called the army to advance, and Barak took direction from her. Oh! Also, she’s married, and her husband doesn’t really factor in to the story at all. Presumably he doesn’t mind her having the highest position in the land and doing such a bang-up job at it. (Judges 4-5)

Jael?

Uhhh, super no. She violates her husband’s peace treaty with King Jabor, Isreal’s enemy, by cracking open Jabor’s top general’s head with a tent peg. This earns her a big section written about her exploits in a victory song! (Judges 4:215:24-27)

Hannah?

Barren Hannah prays for and is granted a son (Samuel), whom she brings to Eli the High Priest at age three to lend him to the Lord for the rest of his life. Hannah tells her husband Elkanah what she plans to do (it’s not phrased as a question), and he tells her to do what seems good to her. Like Jacob and Rachel, this passage also comes off as marital cooperation (in both cases with the husband deferring to his wife). (1 Samuel 1-2)

Abigail?

No. Abigail completely disregards her husband Nabal’s wishes to repay David rudely for the good David has done to Nabal’s shepherds, doesn’t have any kind of conversation with Nabal about his behavior or her plans to go directly against his orders (it specifically says she doesn’t tell him what she’s planning to do) but unilaterally decides to go off and take care of the problem herself. Then when she gets to David she doesn’t bother even trying to preserve Nabal’s reputation or speak well of him but chucks him right under the horse’s hooves and tells David that Nabal is worthless and foolish. This all manages to prevent her entire household from getting wiped out and results in her becoming wife to King David after the Lord strikes down Nabal ten days later. (1 Samuel 25)

Huldah?

Heard of her? She was a prophetess of enough renown that when Hilkiah the High Priest finds the Book of the Law, doesn’t even recognize it, and sends it off to King Josiah who has never seen it either, Josiah sends emissaries with the book to the prophetess Huldah to find out what’s the what. None of the men there seem too buzzed by the fact of her authority regarding Scripture including the King, the High Priest, and her husband; and they all take her seriously when the word she sends back to Josiah amounts to “God says you guys are toast.” (II Kings 22:3-20; II Chronicles 34: 8-33)

Esther?

Ahhh, Esther. After being kidnapped and groomed to extra-beauteousness for an entire year with a whole bunch of other pretty girls, Jewish Esther goes in to the king who thinks she’s the super-fanciest and makes her queen; however, she can only go back into his presence at his request. After discovering that the king is planning to wipe out all the Jews in the entire country, she risks her own life by going in to him anyway and manages to talk him out of genocide. I think Esther is probably the closest to the ideal submissive wife, but that raises the question Why is the supplication method of a teenage, captive, kidnapped girl whose erratic husband threw out the last wife and whom it was illegal for her to go talk to unless her husband invited her now the suggested marital model for free, adult, married women? Weird that she was so submissive!

Esther’s situation would be similar to a young Christian girl getting kidnapped by ISIS and then married off to the unstable head warlord who is plotting to kill off all the Christians in the entire country. Asking your husband to maybe not do that in the most submissive, demure way possible would be absolutely advisable. Doing so any other way and even doing so at all are both likely to end in death. Escape is not an option. Is this in any way similar to a free, adult equal explaining her desires, requests, or complaints to her counterpart (wives are at least ontologically equal, right?)? Is this the model for our Christian spousal relationships? Also, she doesn’t listen to her husband’s authority. She bypasses him entirely and listens to her uncle. (Esther 4:11; 5:1)

The Proverbs 31 woman?

While she is usually held up as the ideal wife, several things about her don’t exactly fit the party line. While she is a capable manager of her home and kind to all, she is also shrewd in business and real estate, and the word translated “virtuous” here is translated as “valiant” or some other word denoting strength all the other times it is used in the Bible except for twice in Proverbs when referring to women and once in Ruth where it is often translated “excellent” (I’ve written about this here). Nowhere does it imply that her capabilities are subject to or dependent upon either her father or her husband. It does, however, say that her husband prospers because of her.


So, what example is Peter trying to get across to the women he’s writing to by pointing them to the holy women of former times? Is it unilateral obedience in all circumstances? I don’t think so. None of those women had a clear “Yes, sir” relationship with authority in which they operated solely as an obedient subordinate.

Some of them went directly against their civic rulers (Esther, Moses’ mother, the Israelite midwives, Rahab), some against their husbands or other males in their household (Abigail, Rebekah, Tamar, Jael), some of them were rulers or in authority themselves (Deborah, Huldah), some operated on a cooperative give-and-take with their husbands (Rachel, Hannah, Sarah), and some just waltzed up and boldly explained what they wanted or needed (Zelophehad’s daughters, Achsah, Ruth). You could argue for many of them that the times they act counter to what they’ve been told is when they are directly asked to sin, but I think that overlooks some interesting occasions.

Arguably Ruth could have seen Naomi’s plotting as sinful and said no but didn’t, and many of these women seem to have relationships with their husbands that appear unconcerned with who is supposed to be submitting to whom. I think Peter is trying to tell the women he’s writing to that there is a balance between cooperation and resistance, and both are viable options depending on the circumstances.

Most of the teaching I’ve heard on these women over the years, which has been extremely minimal for most and none at all for the rest, has been quick to point out that each one was an exception. Deborah was the only woman judge. She was an exception to God’s design, and therefore nothing to aspire to. Rebekah was tricky. Esther and Ruth are both ok. They both do what their uncle and mother-in-law tell them to do, and it works out. Oh, and Abigail. Oddly, that story doesn’t really get much fuller explanation because of those pesky talking bad about her husband and going behind his back bits.

What I see when I look at this is not a list of exceptions. It’s a pattern. It’s a pattern of valiant women, strong women who put themselves in danger to protect others, who stand up to people when God tells them to regardless of whether that person is their husband, king, or enemy general. It’s a pattern of cooperation when possible and resistance when cooperation is impossible. It’s a pattern of God’s protection and provision. It’s a pattern of women of courage and faithfulness. This is our legacy and our inheritance. We are mighty women of God, holy women of old. This is who we are.

And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

5

The Wife As “Helper” – A Handy Chart

The Wife As "Helper" - A Handy Chart | RachelShubin.com

Which set of arrows describes your marriage? Which set do you think God put forth in Genesis 1 & 2?

Which side of the chart describes how you think the relationship between husbands and wives should work (or describes your relationship with your own spouse)? Does a wife primarily serve God by helping her husband with his God-appointed tasks or does she serve God by doubling the manpower for dominion work in general? These often overlap but frequently a wife feels called toward something that doesn’t directly help her husband. What then? Here are a couple things to consider:

 

Genesis 2:18 (NKJV)
18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

 

All the animals had gendered counterparts, male and female, but Adam did not. He was alone. So God knocked him out, pulled him apart, and made him a female counterpart out of his bodily stuff. She was equal to himself because she came from himself. This parity is reflected in the dominion mandate itself:

 

Genesis 1:26-28
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

 

Dominion over the whole earth was given not just to Adam, but to both Adam and Eve. The work of filling and subduing it was given to both, and both are created in God’s image. There is no role or hierarchy distinction here whatsoever.

 

Comparable in Gen. 2:18
Going back to Gen. 2:18, what about that word “comparable” or “suitable” as it is frequently translated? What does that mean? Here’s what Strong’s has to say:

 

5048. neged
neged: in front of, in sight of, opposite to

Original Word: נֶ֫גֶד
Part of Speech: substantive; adverb; preposition; adverb; preposition
Transliteration: neged
Phonetic Spelling: (neh’-ghed)
Short Definition: before

 

And here is the Brown-David-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon definition:

2 With prepositions:

a. כְּנֶגֶדaccording to what is in front of =corresponding to, Genesis 2:18 I will make himעֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֺ a help corresponding to him i.e. equal and adequate to himself, Genesis 2:20 among the animals there was no עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֺ. **Note that in Late Hebrew מכנגד = in front of, Ber 4:5; 9:5; Ab 2:10, מכנגד פני Git 7:7 and elsewhere.

I’d put in all the references, but there are 150+ and most of them are used as prepositions to denote location (e.g. “in front of the mountain”). Personally, I like the way the King James translates it, “I will make him an help meet for him,” but since no one uses the word “meet” this way anymore, modern readers tend to hear it as “help mate” which implies the wife’s purpose is to help her mate. What “meet” actually means here is closer to “perfectly fitted” or “apt.” It is an adjective describing the type of help she provides, not a noun. Eve is Adam’s counterpart, his equal, and is perfectly suited to fill and subdue the earth with him so that he won’t have to do it alone (the filling part would be tough to do alone anyway).

Helper in Gen. 2:18
What about the word “helper”? Hehe. I looked up every instance where the Hebrew word is used in the Old Testament, and it does not mean “head sock darner and diaper changer.” Neither of those things are bad, of course. Both are necessary, and if that’s what you feel called to do, you should definitely do it  with gusto (well, darning may not be necessary, but buying new socks occasionally is good). However, the word “helper” in Genesis 2:18 oddly carries no connotation of domestic help.

The most common usage of the Hebrew word is of a strong force coming to someone’s aid in battle. Often the helper who is coming to deliver someone out of trouble is the Lord himself. That’s the kind of helper God designed Eve to be. Not only a passive encouragement or support personnel, but an active participant and help in the real work of life. Adam and Eve were both designed to image God. Want to see the research? I have it posted here: A Suitable Helper

Why Was Eve Created?
The real question was what was Adam’s problem? Was his problem that the job was so big that he needed an assistant? The job was and is huge, but that’s not what Genesis 2:18 says was problem. Adam’s problem was that he was alone. God, being a Trinity, knew the value of equal companionship. The animals weren’t going to cut it; they weren’t equals. So God made Adam a counterpart.

Did he make her out of dirt? Nope. Adam couldn’t claim she was made of different dirt from his and therefore completely other from him. Did he make her from his feet? Nope. He couldn’t claim he was over her. Did he make her from his head? Nope. She couldn’t claim she was over him. God made Eve from Adam’s side (not just a rib, by the way), the spot that houses almost all the important guts and interior workings of the body, the softest part, the very center. Eve was part of his very body, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, the only instance of human asexual reproduction in history. This is the rending that marriage re-unites. This is the fit help. One becomes two; two become one.

~ Rachel

P.S. If you are a happy complementarian in a good marriage, then more power to you. I think there is room in the Bible and in Christendom for both positions, and I admire many couples of both types. If this post has completely confused you or you are wondering how that fits with Ephesians 5, I have a three part (so far) series on that herehere, and here. If you are curious about egalitarianism and how that can possibly be Biblical, please check out my friend Marg’s excellent post here.

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Response to a Trapped Wife

Daughter, Mother, Sister, Friend – How would you respond to one of them if they came to you for help? (Photo by The Guigo .en, http://bit.ly/LicenseCC)

Doug Wilson recently posted a second article in his Open Letter series, this time to a trapped wife. I’m not going to repost the entire thing here, but I did have a few thoughts on his post. Here is his original article: Open Letter to a Trapped Wife; and here is my response:

Continue Reading

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Modesty & Bikini Motivation

Bikini Motivation

This woman is out to seduce! Oh wait, no. She’s just drinking soda at the beach, minding her own business…

A month or so ago, I got into a conversation on another blog with a woman I’ve never met. Since summer is coming up, naturally the topic was modesty and bikinis. She hadn’t worn one since her honeymoon, would never let her daughters wear one, would be kindly encouraging others to do the same, and said that the real issue is the motivations of our own hearts for why we would want to wear a bikini (that part I agree with!). Her comment closed by saying that she had hoped she had provided a Biblical perspective instead of just an emotional one. Here was my response, lightly edited for clarity:

 

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I’m glad that you don’t want to be the modesty police. Good goal! I think you’re right; we do all draw the line as to what we see as modest or immodest somewhere, and we each do draw it in different places. But the rest of your comment puzzled me very much.

You said that the only time you wore a bikini was on your honeymoon and that you don’t wear them now or let your daughters. All good. Your actions match your views, and you are raising your kids the way you believe, as you should. But you also mention that “we” need to be more concerned with the motivations of our own hearts; however, just before that you say “you” will be kindly encouraging other women who are not you or your daughters to not wear bikinis. That is attributing the motivations of *your* heart to other people’s behavior and asking them to change *their* behavior based on *your* heart. Then you wonder about possible motivations for wanting to wear a bikini and whether or not is because one wants to feel sexy/garner attention.

Let me illustrate the point that not everyone’s motivations are the same. I will be forty years old next month and have six children. I am fairly small-ish, but my stomach has suffered rather a lot of wear and tear over the years. So, do I wear a bikini to attract attention? Not so much. I bought my first bikini in nineteen years last summer, and I wear it because despite the non-20 year old body, I like it. It’s cute and far more comfortable than my one-piece (pulling up a wet lycra swimsuit over your stomach after going to that bathroom anyone? Kind of like wrestling on a skin-tight slug shirt). Plus, it makes me feel unexpectedly pretty when I wear it. Is feeling sexy a bad thing? Is it necessarily tied to wanting attention? I think the answer to both of those is “no.”

I feel pretty or sexy regardless of whether or not someone else is around to see me. The human body is designed to feel sexy sometimes as it is designed to feel many other things, and feeling sexy isn’t always directly related to bedroom time. I tend to feel that way when I succeed at something and feel confident, when I do more than six pushups and feel strong, when I stand in the back doorway to look out at the woods and feel the breeze around me, and of course when my husband nuzzles the back of my neck when I’m cooking. None of those are related to clothes and none of them are related to garnering attention since almost all of those situations occur when I’m alone except for the last one.

Clothes can and do also make me feel sexy, but for me usually (but not always) it’s in reverse. I feel sexy first, and then the clothes I choose reflect that. If I feel confident yet relaxed and have an opportunity to snazz up, on me that looks like pencil skirts with 4″ heels that look slightly like I’m a refugee from the 1940′s. Why do I like that? Beats me. But I reeeeeeally, really do.

When I feel confident enough to wear something I like yet relaxed enough to not care if other people don’t like it, I wear my bikini. Because I like it. Because it reminds me that a little belly flab will probably not spark the apocalypse and I just need to get over myself. Because it reminds me that that belly birthed six wonderful children, and that is a very small personal cost for a gift of such massive return. Because it reminds me that imperfection is ok and to let go of the small things that I want to hold on tightly to and assign far more importance to than they should have. Because when I mentioned to my wonderful, beautiful husband last year that I was thinking about getting a bikini, his response was, “I don’t know why you didn’t do that years ago” and then when I actually got one he smiled like he did when we were young and said I should wear it all the time. (This then raises the question: should I defer to my own husband’s desires or yours?)

So, does that answer your question as to motivations? If you are concerned that in your own heart, your motivation for wanting to wear a bikini might be that you just want to attract gobs of attention, that is a valid reason to not wear one. On top of that, you said your husband doesn’t want you to, and that’s a great reason as well. But those are, as you said you were concerned with at the start of your comment, matters of your own heart and your own conscience and your own family dynamics. My heart and conscience and family dynamics vary from yours, and many other peoples’ undoubtedly vary from both yours and mine. Those things are not across-the-board universals.

Speaking of universals, you ask at the beginning of your comment if we can ever decide something is immodest and then at the end of your comment mention that you wanted to bring some Biblical perspective. That too is a worthy goal, and as Christians we should be doing that in all areas of life.

Last summer after I posted an article about porn on Facebook, the conversation resulted in 80 comments mostly about modesty and what the Bible has to say about it (answer: surprisingly not as much as one would think). I think pretty much all relevant verses were covered, and the discussion was fascinating (and also very time-consuming and thorough enough that I have no wish to post all the Biblical arguments again here). If you have a wad of time to spend reading and are interested, you can see the whole thing here: Porn/Modesty Facebook Discussion.

The takeaways that I found most interesting from all that were that a) the Bible says very little and nearly nothing specific about clothing sizes or lengths or anything, and  b) the vast majority (if not all) of the references to modesty in the Bible relate to behavior and/or the interior workings of the heart as opposed to the clothes one is wearing. The other striking point was that even among a group of Christians mainly from my own denomination, there were many opinions on modesty and how to define it and what the Bible said or implied about it. Every single one of the people who commented is someone I know personally and like very much. All of them, every one, are Godly men and women who I respect very much, yet we disagree to some extent or another on how it all plays out.

One last note on something that would not have occurred to me at all had I not started wearing a bikini. Having heard for most of my life that wearing a bikini would be a huge temptation for the men around me (or something) and might be a problem for them, I was immeasurably surprised when I started wearing one to the river last year. You want to know who was bothered? Christian friends who weren’t with me and have never seen me in a bikini (mostly women but not all). You want to know who cared among the people who were at the actual river and saw me in my bikini? No one. Nobody cared. Half of them were wearing bikinis too. No one was turning into a raging lust ball or assuming I was out to steal their husband. It was a complete non-event, which was perfect since I wasn’t trying to attract attention anyway. I just sat on the rocks and watched the kids play, which was what we had actually gone there to do. The sun was warm, the water was sparkly, and I was thankful for a relaxing afternoon.

Anyway, that’s the really long way of saying I liked your comment and it’s always nice to talk to someone who is trying to think about things from a Godly perspective. May your summer be filled with sunshine and laughter.

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~ Rachel

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Reponse to a Reviling Husband

Response to a Reviling Husband | RachelShubin.com

This is not a “marriage problem.” In Christian parlance, this is called “reviling.” (Photo by The Lamp, http://bit.ly/LicenseCC)

Last weekend Doug Wilson posted an piece on his blog entitled “An Open Letter to an Angry Husband.” This topic seems to cause all kinds confusion on what constitutes an appropriate Biblical response, which I think is because so many people struggle to define it. Continue Reading