Wednesday, 29 August 2012

On submissive women and sacrificial husbands: does Peter Jensen really understand what Paul meant?

  1. I have not read this article in its entirety.  I started to read it. I  found it sickening and platitudinous and could not continue. But then I am a woman.  I am sure there will be many men who will draw comfort from Jensen's views.
  2. I am a practising Christian in two denominations.  I have worshipped in many denominations across the years into my old age and have found that no one 'brand' fills every part of my 'theological school of one' being.  I am an Anglican - I come from a family which is staunch Anglican on one side and Catholic on the other.  I am an Anglican somewhere in the middle - neither High Anglican (Anglo Catholic) nor Evangelical (especially of the Cromwellian and puritanical Sydne/Jensen kind).  I am also a Quaker.

There are large sections of western society, currently, who are marriage averse. With one exception - the bridezillas with their 'princess for a day' mentality who are prepared to do all it takes in terms of money, film production, frock fabrication and catering.  Many do it after long term living together arrangements and children and purchasing the 'marital' home - because, they claim, they can't afford to do it at the beginning of the relationship.  

Fertility control and the pill were the most significant 20th century interventions to turn traditional ideas of marriage on their head.  And when I say "traditional", I don't mean only the 'love, honour and obey' or 'the two shall become one' concept of marriage.  Another traditional purpose of marriage has been as a form of familial alliance and property acquisition.  In many societies, including modern western society, the woman herself has been regarded as property - irrespective of what many Christian traditions - and Peter Jensen - believe.  Christian traditions have, by and large, always worked with (and not always against) the power relationships within the institution of marriage.

A favourite fall back for the submission of wives within the Christian tradition - particularly in evangelical Christian churches -  is Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus with a lighter form in the letter to the church at Colossae.  (Please see Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18).

Now I have been sitting in Christian pews longer than I can remember – quite literally.  My earliest memory of sitting in church would be from when I was four.  However, it was only in the 1980s, that I can recall marriage sermons in evangelical churches using Ephesians Chapter 5 quoting not only Verse 22 but the marriage metaphor in its entirety.  It should be remembered that I am referencing male preachers.  So, what is new about male clerics of the Pharisaical kind wanting to subjugate women and keep them in a confined and defined place and space!

So for the record - here is what the well-educated, highly literate Apostle Paul actually said about the marriage relationship in his letter to the Ephesian church.  And, as you read, please remember that this way of marriage is not only an ideal advised by the bachelor Paul - it is also a literary metaphor used to convey the overall relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ to his followers left behind on this planet.  
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

My view is quite simple and requires no "submission" except to our Creator.

Wifely submission is but one side of a coin.  The other side requires that husbands love their wives to the extent that Christ loved the whole church.  He gave himself for it.  He was politically persecuted, socially despised, tortured and horribly murdered - all for the sake of those he called His Friends.

Now I can't speak for all women but if I knew that my husband (and my late husband was indeed one of these men) would be willing to endure for me all that occurred to Jesus, then I would not need a marriage vow to require loving submission from me. Submission to such a person is not an issue.  It is called forth quite naturally within the relationship.

There were so many times in my marriage when the boot was on the other foot and my late beloved went along with my way of things for the good of our whole family unit.  This is how sacred partnerships work.  Submission is a very limited word.  The true partnership is a mutual submission - to each other.  Just as the divine figure of Jesus submitted to less powerful figures for the sake of love.

Addendum 1:  I was married in the Catholic Church and under that rite there was no promise to love, honour or obey    
Addendum 2:  In churches which are big on the submission of wives, I have seen some highly manipulative women.

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