Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making Distinctions, Part 2

Between Submission and Submission

Or perhaps, Submission vs. Submission. Now that I've said that husbands can submit to their wives without biblical violations, I can't let that fly without making another important distinction, the distinction between the kind of submission a husband should have to his wife and vice versa. I tend to agree with David's thoughts in an earlier post that men and women are created differently and that those differences need to be respected (and I would also add NOT exploited) in how spouses submit to each other.

I've commented earlier that the question for Complementarians is not how much submitting should be excercised, but what kind. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem makes the case that the role of a wife includes a unique kind of submission that wives should afford their husbands that isn't replicated in any other type of relationship. I see nothing wrong with that. After all, my husband only has one wife--me--and logically should receive a unique and designated kind of love and respect (and deference) from me that I don't show to anyone else.

Likewise, a husband should show his wife a unique kind of love and respect (and submission) toward his wife that isn't replicated in any other relationship either.

Is this submission "mutual?" Yes. Is it equivalent? Definitely not. But what is submission anyway? Even in defining submission within the marriage context, there are varying connotations. Complementarianism holds that men and women do not require and are not made to require the same kind of submission from each other, but do require the appropriate submission from each other. Even Egalitarians seem to use the word 'submit' a little differently when referring to whomever is doing the submitting. Again, the issue is about the nature of submitting, not how much or how often or to what degree one should submit to the other and if the other should reciprocate in equal quantities. I realize that this is a rather broad generality, and I think scripturally it is meant to be.

To throw a little more perspective onto things, imagine if wives always contested their husbands. Imagine if husbands continually ignored their wives. (Do we really need to imagine?) Now we can understand why Paul would spend time addressing the marriage relationship in scripture, for it appears that it was because wives were not submitting to their own husbands that Paul makes his declarations.

Perhaps this is where I should have started from the beginning. There is plenty of fear and suspicion to be had without a clear understanding of the motivations of the Apostle Paul whenever Christians talk about any kind of submission. We still have a long way to go to reach clarity, but I hope my making a distinction here contributes in some small way.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Making Distinctions, Part 1

This is a series that I am writing for the Complegalitarian blog. In an effort to spread controversy as far and wide as I can (which may not be very far, but here I go anyway), I am reproducing it here for my own blog.

Making Distinctions...

Between Patriarchy and Complementarianism
As I see it, ground level complementarianism simply states that there are divinely purposed roles for men and women to function in the family and in the church (yes, some roles not being swappable). Patriarchy can be seen as an extreme form of complementarianism, but I believe that its characteristics are less an extension of Complementarianism and more like Complementarianism's 'cult,' like the Jehovah's Witnesses are to Christianity(1). Therefore, I find much about patriarchy's views on complementarian principles objectionable.

1. Husband/father headship. Complementarianism simply gives the husband/father the role of representative leader that carries a unique accountability to God (Genesis 3). With that role logically comes a certain amount of authority. Complementarianism does not place the husband over the wife in terms of authority but logically maintains that deference be given to him because of his position. Is this a "priviledge?" If it is, it is a slight one and one not without narrow limits. This is not male hierarchy or male superiority any more than it is female inferiority.

Patriarchy seeks to centralize all authority to the head position and expands its reach into areas of life that minimizes the other figure in the marriage and home, namely the wife. Patriarchy views wives as means to the husbands' ends. From this point of view comes all the examples of husbands micromanaging (to put it nicely) their wives' lives for the purpose of making husbands' lives fulfilled and convenient. This is neither biblical nor justifiable. Scripture gives to the man a wife as a helper. Nowhere does the Lord God call her a maid, a butler, a servant, a tool, and certainly not a slave. As my pastor once preached as well, "Marriage is not to make you happy; it is to make you holy." Indeed, God commands the man to leave his home (meaning his familial identity) and cleave to his wife, yet patriarchy insists on the husband making the wife conform to his leanings and identity. One could more biblically state that the husband should be the one conforming more to his wife's identity instead.

What does the position of head contain? A man has the responsibility to make sure that what he and his family does is right in the sight of God, simply put. He is the one that has to answer for the collective state of his household; this doesn't mean that he speaks for his wife as an individual, but for both husband and wife as a unit.

2. One flesh unity in marriage. Complementarians and Egalitarians both agree that husband and wife should act together in building the character of their marriage and family. Patriarchy seeks to make this task univocal rather than in unity, and since authority is centralized in the husband, he then might find himself deciding things that he likely has little wisdom to give, like how many babies his wife should bear, what clothes his wife should wear, determining the occupations of his children beforehand, etc. The result is clearly not one flesh unity, but forced conformity (as discussed above).

3. Eve was created to be Adam's helper/helpmate. Complementarianism acknowledges that Eve wasn't just any female, but Adam's wife, pointing to a relationship between the two that existed the moment she began to exist. Outside of this relationship, who Adam and Eve were to each other would have been meaningless. Similarly, as Complementarians apply the Adam & Eve theme to the rest of humanity, it only makes sense in a marriage relationship that a woman is her man's helpmate. Therefore, there cannot be any patriarchal generalization that females in society are helpers to males in society. Thus, it is not wrong for women to hold positions of civic authority over men and similarly not wrong for women to have authority over men in the church provided that their authority does not violate a more foundational principle of 1 Tim. 2:12 (that women cannot have authority in church over their own husbands).

4. Wives are to submit to their husbands. That 'wives are to submit to their husbands' does not conversely mean that husbands are not to submit to their wives, yet this is precisely what patriarchy implicitly holds. (Oh, perhaps husbands may submit to their wives, but in patriarchal terms, such submitting must be done only if he wills or desires to submit. Pathetic.) A wife's submission is to God first and to her husband second and that submission to her husband is because of her submission to God. I am not now going to kill wifely submission with a thousand qualifications, so please don't misunderstand when I say that when a husband is sinful in his treatment and demands of his wife, her obligation not to sin is greater than her obligation to submit to her husband, so a wife should not feel compelled to obey the will of her husband in those times. Let me be redundant for clarity: a husband's sin need not be his wife's sin as well.

5. Should a husband submit to his wife? We've asked this question before on Complegalitarian without making this particular distinction, so allow me to make it here. Patriarchy says 'no.' Complementarians should correct the question to read "When should a husband submit to his wife?" As stated above, the mandate that wives are to submit to their husbands doesn't negate the fact that husbands need to listen and submit to their wives--when?--on the occasions that they should submit to their wives. This is what "mutual submission" means to me. It isn't 50/50, because 50/50 can be unjust by disregarding the nature of the subject.

First of all, these are not contrary statements. One may now try to accuse me of using an argument from silence, but I'll remind us that it is legitimate when we would expect circumstances to otherwise contradict the silence. In a couple of instances in scripture, we see married women acting without any explicit direction from their husbands in action very much in accordance to the providence of God.

Example 1 - In Genesis 2:1-4, Moses' mother orchestrates the saving of Moses' infant life by putting him into the basket in the river and then directing Miriam to watch over the baby.

Example 2 - To Moses again, his wife is the one that decides to circumsize their sons without his intitial knowledge.(Exod. 4:24-26) If patriarchy (the kind we're talking about) were the case, we would expect to see a reprimand of some kind of both women for making decisions that their husbands had to comply with--ahem--submitted to. But we don't. Instead, we see Yahweh's implicit approval of these women as having acted in accordance to His will when (especially in the latter case) the husband had not.

As a Complementarian, I see many problems with Patriarchy and agree with many of our Egalitarian commenters about them. However, I do object to the blurring of Complementarianism to share Patriarchy's views in the same way and in the same relationship.

(1) The most striking similarity about this comparison is the psychological irony that both Jehovah's Witnesses and Patriarchalists seem to play out, that all things so done by the ruling authority in the name of loving God and loving family actually end up robbing God and family of the love they truly ought to receive by substituting a false love of cultish control and demanding compliance in all things.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The View Heard 'Round the Blogosphere

DJ Chuang happened to post his thoughts on the same View controversy over the n-word as I. I appreciated the mutual interest on the topic and the different approach he took to seeing the video clip. Here is my comment to his post on Next Gener.Asian:

Hello DJ!

I just blogged about this same issue as well (read it at my blog). I guess it’s a good thing I wrote it without knowledge of your comments, because it seems we have something to talk about!

The majority race in this country is not the only one to be insensitive to other racial groups. As much as the black community is the victim of much racial insensitivity, blacks have also dished out their fair share of it as well, a lot of it falling on Asians. (Recall a riot in L.A. where Asian shopowners in particular were the victims of shooting, looting and vandalism).

Reading my post, you might get a sense that I am one of those fellow Asians that doesn’t acknowledge the cultural differences that come with being in a racial minority in America. I think those differences are impossible to ignore, so rest assured that at the very least I don’t ignore it.

However, there quickly comes a point where talking about things like this out loud becomes little more than complaining and beating up on an entire class of fellow humans (a.k.a. those of “white priviledge”), most of which have been whipped by political correctness not to have a true dialogue about race at all but parrot PC language all day long. There also comes a point where I surmise some might resist making progress for fear of losing their power once forgiveness becomes incumbent upon them.

The church is in the perfect spot to exemplify healing to the world. It is a testimony that–I agree with you–we are failing to accomplish. Theologically speaking, all races in question belong to the majority in mankind: Gentile. I believe that as Christians, this is where we need to begin. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has come to even us, as the Judaizers with Peter realized.

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if God gave them the same gift that He also gave to us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?” When they heard this they became silent. Then they glorified God, saying, “So God has granted repentance resulting in life to even the Gentiles! (Acts 11:16-18, emphasis mine)

As a Christian, capitulating to the world’s fragmentation and double standards has never sat well with me. We can do better, much much better.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Two Worlds and Double Standards?

Although I don't watch The View at all, apparently I can't avoid the show, since it produces news-capturing controversy on a regular basis. This time, it is riding the coattails of Jesse Jackson's curious "accidental" (?) negative remarks about Barack Obama, using the n-word. On The View, hostesses Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd defend the use of the n-word, but only among blacks and only those blacks that supposedly know what they're doing with that word. In other words, dirty rappers may or may not fall into that category. Hm. Conversely, no white folk (or any other color folk) should ever find themselves uttering such a word, because then it becomes an blatant racial slur. The condemnation that follows such an utterance then should be swift and severe. I see. Now you see:

Credit YouTube user speakmymind01.

What if I should behave the same with racial words used for Asians by more blacks than whites that have ever run across my path? In my lifetime, it was a black child older than I that ever harassed me physically. Should I hold that against all blacks? Should I say then that no black person can use certain words but make an exception for myself and others of my own racial grouping? That isn't just ridiculous, it is repugnant.

There indeed are two worlds. Apparently, Elisabeth Hasselbeck (and I) live in the one that wants to bring unity and compassion to our existence. Whoopi lives in the world that doesn't. Whoopi doesn't just bring attention to racial disparity, she wallows in it. In a society that is sincerely trying to move beyond skin color as a measure of one's personhood and value, Whoopi and Jesse Jackson mean to drag as many as they can to the depths of their anger and refuse to let the nation heal. We cannot have a dawn of a new day if civil rights activists insist on shooting out the sun.

I summon the spirit of Rodney King that begs you to let us all get along. Clean up your mouth. Let go of the nastiness.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I've Got Worms!

Composting worms, that is. After waiting anxiously for days, the store where I ordered them from said "they're in!" I grabbed my keys, shoes, and children and drove to the local Worm's Way to pick up my redworms. My starter bedding and food scraps had been aging for almost a week and breeding fruit flies like crazy, so I was very relieved to get those worms. Anyway, the play-by-play on my first worm bin:

The Bin
Since I'm new at this, I had no idea what was an appropriate size bin for 1 lb. of worms, so I bought this 21 gal. lock-top Rubbermaid plastic bin. I now know that this is kind of big. Oh well, I had always planned to keep it outdoors anyway. I'm hoping the larger size will also encourage my worms to reproduce quickly.

Oh hai! Looks like I'm growing something in it already!

Prepping the Bin
Me use power drill. Feel goooood--yaaaaah!

Add Bedding
This project doubles as an educational tool for my daughter. Now this is my idea of homeschooling! After wetting the bedding down, I added some old rotting food from the back of the fridge and covered it with a little more damp bedding.

Add Worms and Cover With Dry Bedding!
All the vermicomposting instructional sites say now leave them alone for at least a few days for the worms to get comfy. Must resist the urge to look--must resist! Must.....resist!

Anyway, expect updates on my progress.