Dropping Everything

“Reading while supposed to be doing dishes. Got to stop b/c the book [apparently on Male Headship and Female Submission via Christian Head-coverings from 1 Corinthians 11] reminded me to honor my husband, and doing my work is part of that.” The caption read below a picture of a closed book inside of a dish drainer that was put alongside some pots and other dishes. Apparently, I’m supposed to find this as a worthy example to emulate; either being a husband who orders about his wife as if she were his daughter who was skipping out on her chores: “You’re supposed to be doing the dishes right now, why are you reading instead?” or a wife who drops whatever she’s doing to snap-to the orders of her husband in first-time obedience because he comes first and she comes second, always.
I’m not surprise that the premise of the book is more conducive to marriage than singleness; after all, it could have very easily been a daughter who wrote of her father: “Reading while supposed to be doing dishes. Got to stop b/c the book reminded me to honor my father, and doing my work is part of that.” But I guess they let the rules of the roles get a little fuzzy in the case of widows, who are supposed to be in submission to some guy somewhere somehow; just not in the same way a wife is supposed to honor her husband or a child his or her parents (but daughters honoring their fathers more than sons honoring their mothers, obviously) – after all, it’s called male headship, not husband headship or father headship or church leader headship – so it would imply that all females are to submit to certain males in particular roles who have some degree of God-given authority over them simply on the basis that they are women who are supposed to submit to men because they were told the Bible says so by the men in charge.
Of course, in Complementarian circles, there’s no such thing as female headship or male submission; it would be a contraversion of God’s creation order of male being made first and female being made last and the supposed authority that comes with it. So authority is synonymous with maleness and submission is synonymous with femaleness; and just as female is the complement of male, so is submission the complement of authority. Whether they realize it or not, they are in fact teaching that it is the lot of women to be “the help”, the one who takes orders without question and fulfills them immediately. They call it “being respectful” and “showing honor” – cloaking it in acceptable terms to hide the terrible truth inside: women are being taught to be obedient and that they are far less important than the men in their lives.
After all, the caption doesn’t say: “I saw my wife was reading, so I decided to do the dishes for her so that she didn’t have to stop if she didn’t want to.” That would be a man lowering himself to do woman’s work, which, by the way, never ends. Consider the Proverbs 31 woman’s schedule, the first to wake up and the last to go to sleep, her whole day is spent on caring for her family and their needs that her own needs are never met – she doesn’t have the time even with a full staff of servants. The passage is the picture of ‘dying to self’ or ‘being a living sacrifice’ – of someone who never gives a thought to what they need because their existence is built upon giving everything they have to everyone else. The problem is that people can’t run on empty for very long and anyone who doesn’t take of himself or herself can’t take care of anyone else very well at all. All the more though, women are told to die to themselves in order to help out. “Don’t focus on what you want, do something about what everyone else wants.” I also don’t understand why it’s common for husbands to buy clothes washing and drying machines, but a dishwasher is often out of the question – it would be a win/win scenario – the dishes wash themselves while the wife reads her book that makes her happy.
I see that even in this woman’s story. After reading a book about how her husband’s authority is complemented by her wifely submission, then what he wants done comes first, even at the expense of what she’s doing because it’s not as important to him, once she properly understands dying to self, then her only duty is to obey her husband and help him in everything before she even thinks about what she wants for herself. While it’s true, the husband is supposed to love his wife, he is under no obligation to submit, he isn’t supposed to be doing a woman’s work or free her from her obligation to him. She might be his equal in some ethereal sense, just as a genie is equal to her master as an intelligent being, but for all her power – she can only say “yes, master.” It’s a rare master who wishes that his genie be set free to choose for herself what she wants. And that’s what Sarah said of her husband – calling him “lord”. This too, is said to be a worthy example to follow.
And the church wonders why there’s unprecedented singleness in this day and age.

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12 thoughts on “Dropping Everything

  1. If you haven’t read “Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans, I would strongly suggest it. She tackles many of these issues. I particularly liked her chapter on Prov. 31 and how, in the Jewish tradition, it is a song of praise for what women already do, not a prescription for all the things they should be forcing themselves to do. I’ve also always found it interesting the way some people interpret the word “ezer” when referring to women as men’s “helper”. The funny thing about it is that the Bible uses the same word to describe God helping people, implying not a subordinate role, but rather someone giving a hand to pull another up. It’s curious to see that we rarely see this interpretation discussed. On a personal level, I can’t imagine the whole docile/subservient wife paradigm or how it would be rewarding. I like that my wife challenges and engages me, and that she stands on her own strength. I can’t see how the other approach could even be viewed as true relationship…

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    1. It’s not a true relationship. I sometimes say that power corrupts, absolutely power corrupts absolutely and spiritual power corrupts spiritually; I think it holds true in relationships; where there is an inequality in a relationship in that one person has more power than his or her partner, then the same corruption occurs as surely as it does in every other form – so relational power corrupts relation-ally. Too many Christian blogs are dedicated to lording authority over one another, holding back what someone wants in an effort to punish them, or how to more effectively discipline your subordinate – it’s all just so wrong.

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  2. You mentioned him doing the dishes while she read. As i recall the man is supposed to cherish his wife, and she is supposed to honor him. Is it that in today’s world (and yes, church), the concept of the man cherishing his wife is never defined or encouraged or pushed from the authority figures of the church? Isn’t the definition of cherishing supposed to come from Scripture and isn’t the man duty bound to live up to it if he is to be an authority figure in the church? And isn’t the definition of honor supposed to come from Scripture and the woman duty bound to live up to it? I’m just saying that my wants and perceived needs are to be subject to what God says they should be. If I could live up to that maybe it would be much easier for my wife to live up to her end of the bargain and both of us would be far better off in the eyes of God (whether she does or not). And in the end He will judge us on that. Maybe that is what we should consider. My wife will not be standing next to me at Judgment taking the blame for my arrogance or ignorance in the way I fail in living up to my responsibility before God. He never promised us easy. In fact, He promised us trials and tribulations.

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    1. That’s the problem, when you look at what men and women are told to do, men are told to love their wives in Ephesians 5, whereas the wife is told to submit to her husband and to respect him – she is not told to love him. In 1 Peter 3, wives are still instructed to submit, but husbands are told to be considerate and treat her with respect; I would say that this husband was not being considerate of his wife or what she was doing. Looking at Colossians 3, the instruction is the same – the wife is told to submit and the husband is supposed to love his wife and not be harsh with her. Each series of instructions refers to three relationships, husband and wife, father and child, master and slave; in the ancient world, the husband/father/master were often one and the same person; though it was also equally possible for the people to have the other roles as well; that a slave would have a female master to whom he would be expected to submit – but that’s the ancient world for you and it’s unequal society. Which begs the question: why is the slave/master relationship invalid as written to their culture when grafted onto ours, but the father/child (I’m fairly sure it’s not speaking to the mother/child relationship) and the husband/wife relationship considered timeless truths from the same passages even in our completely different culture? I think that even God gets that we can’t walk around in ancient robes and live as He ordered people who lived thousands of years ago to live – that we can’t structure our communities, our schools, our lives in according to a pattern he gave a very different world. It’s just a question of what we think that God says “should” be – but how can we be sure we don’t have it wrong? Does God want women wearing head coverings (per 1 Corinthians 11) until the end of time because they’re women or is there something we’re missing because our cultures are different that makes the instruction null and void today? Is Authority and Submission the nature and core of who God is – or is Love closer to the mark?

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  3. Ugh. The example you gave…This is idolatry. Elevating the male one is married to above and beyond our responsibility to God, not alone our own selfhood. Sorry (not sorry), not going to worship my husband…

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    1. Or should I say, not going to worship my human husband. Christ as our Bridegroom, if fully understood, would put an end to patriarchal understandings of human marriage…

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      1. And it would likely put an end to the privileged position given to married persons in church, which is something they really, really don’t want to do. It took them thousands of years to get this interpretation of Scripture just the way they like it where they get to get away with everything they want and nothing they don’t want.

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  4. The problem with the headship interpretation of Paul’s teaching on marriage is that the passages mix both ancient household codes and Kingdom principals together and Evangelicals can’t distinguish between the two. The trouble with making a “one size fits all” pattern for marriage is that every couple is different. Spouses have different strengths and weaknesses. Creating an artificial hierarchy rather than letting a relationship develop naturally, letting couples work out their roles, ends up stunting spiritual growth rather than encouraging it.

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    1. I really don’t think they want to distinguish between the two; to some extent they like copying the ancient household codes and they know that they need the Kingdom principals to make it acceptable. Without the Kingdom principals, anyone would see right through it and that it doesn’t hold any water at all. Hierarchy was the way of the ancient world, but that’s not what Jesus represented or taught; so many evangelicals cling to Paul’s words rather than Jesus’. I think Paul would have been the first to say that we’ve got it backwards.

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      1. Definitely. I would add also, that I believe Paul may have been describing what a good Christian marriage looked like in that particular time and culture, Within the constraints of a patriarchal society.

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