Friday, August 03, 2007

Submissively the times a changed...

Heather got me thinking about a few scriptures about the role of the wife in the Christian realm - and here is what conclusion I have so far come to (again I am open on this one).

"Wives, be subject to your own husbands" (Eph 5:22)
"But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything" (Eph 5:24)

This is where the story begins in this discussion - women being subject to men in marriage. I have no problem with the idea - subject - but I would say the obvious here - men also need to be subject to their wives (in everything). Marriage is about compromise anyways - but we have grown to see it works both ways now. I think back in Paul's days this was not the case - women may not have been as educated as the male populace or part of the working class so much - this has changed dramatically in the 21st century (women and men are partners in all things in the household from bills to child-rearing).

"Husbands, love your wives" (Eph 5:25)
"So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it" (Eph 5:28-29)

Husbands are commanded here to 'love' and 'look out for the best interests' (nourish and cherish) of their wife - as they would for themself. But the idea is to love your wife and not objectify her - or treat her as a 2nd class citizen because she is 'part of you' (even if women were considered lower then men in that society - this was the new norm). It is possible that in this era women were recieving a less than better class than they deserved and I think the writer is pointing to the idea of equality for the woman - or at the least - a huge step up.

"each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband" (Eph 5:33)

I think this sums it up beautifully - love and respect are to be present in the marriage. One can take the stand of inequality on these passages but the summary is quite clear - men are to treat women as themsleves and women should respect their husbands - I think this can put each other on equal footing if the man does what he is supposed to and actually 'loves' his wife. What is love? - see I Cor 13:4-8 but apparently it is kind, patient, not jealous, not arrogant, is prudent, forgiving, not provoked, seeks the interests of the other, rejoices in truth, perseveres, is faithful, hopes all things, endures, and never fails. That sets a good course for both people involved irregardless.

"You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7)

I think Peter backs up the point also - even he speaks of the 'subject' idea - but his central point is that of understanding and honor the wife as a 'fellow heir' of life. The idea is equality - since they are 'joint heirs' in this faith and work to the betterment of society around them. Peter even mentions overlooking the 'weakness' of women here - if this means the societal status of the woman or strength I am not sure - but what is clear it is not the focus of the marriage and needs to be set aside for unity.

"However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God." (I Cor 11:11-12)

Again we see Paul talking about men and women in the context that both are equal (in some regards) in this faith. A lot of the stuff in this same chapter seems to point to cultural norms of the day concerning women and what is correct - but Paul's point in the matter seems to suggest men and women are equal - even from a Genesis point of view - they needed each other - and neither is independant from the other.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28)

I think this is the idea behind the majority of the teaching - problem is it is so coded in cultural teachings for certain regions and for establishing a 'norm for the people' it gets lost. But Paul makes it abundantly clear here that male or female is not to be regarded as determining one's status in the faith - they're all equal (one) in the same faith system. This is the ideal I shoot for in my own theology - I am quite aware that Paul was dealing with a whole new system of teachings and needed to lay down some ground rules for the people to treat one another decently - people (gentiles) that were new to this faith system and likely had ideas about women that were not so progressive as Paul's. If Paul doesn't go far enough in the marriage teachings - he does here. And BTW - he also mentions slavery as something not to be considered a status marker of the faith either!

So am I off? Am I on? Just what do you think is being said in the passages?

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think this commentary will make an awful lot of women happy...and me too. It isn't about one lording it over the other but about being co-equal, respecting and regarding the others differences and importance.

Jesus elevated the women of His time. That is often lost and this teaching is often perverted in order to demonstrate faith in Christ as oppresive to women. You did a great job!

Pam

Heather said...

Society,

The problem I would still have with that Ephesians verse is that there is a definite comparison going on: the husband is compared to Christ, and the wife is compared to the church. Christ and the church are not equal. One is lord over the other, and at no point is the wife compared to Christ.

Also, again -- the verse never calls out for the husband to submit to the wife. Which would make sense, as Christ never submits to the church. The husband is called out to love his wife, but love her as he loves his own body, which can drift into the property areas. For starters, the body doesn't get a say in its treatment. The love shown here is, in many ways, the love of a superior over a non-superior (Christ to the church).

Plus, part of Christ's love was doing what humanity couldn't do for itself. And how many times have we heard that God knows best, and to submit to God's will, because humanity is flawed, fallen, and finite?

The book of Ephesians is debated among scholars as to whether Paul actually wrote it. And I'm not denying that both Jesus and Paul's geniune letters treated women far better than what we'd see in other socieites of the same time period. The Galatians verse, the Corinthians verse -- those are the verses that should've been forefront in Christian gender relationships, not ones that kept women as second-class. But the Ephesians verse does not hold the equality attitude.

But I see no way around the fact that there is an uneven comparison in Ephesians, with the Christ-husband and church-wife. The wife is called to submit/respect and the husband is to love -- and you can love someone while not treating them as an equal. We do that with children, we do that with teenagers, we do that with those suffering from mental illnesses, or those who are mentally slow, just to name a few.

And that is the attitude that was prevelant in keeping women as second-class. Many of the men probably said that they did it out of love -- they were protecting the women from being too smart, knowing what women "really wanted," keeping women from hurting themselves and so on. Love does sometimes mean that you make a choice for another person against that person's will.

SocietyVs said...

"Christ and the church are not equal. One is lord over the other, and at no point is the wife compared to Christ." (heather)

One could use lord - I think Paul uses the term bride? Is this to say we are not equal to Christ - well you tell me? Isn't the known theology we are included as (adopted) children in the kingdom same as Christ - 'fellow heirs'? If brothers and sisters are not equal - then neither are a wife and a husband - however if they are - then equality is also there.

"the verse never calls out for the husband to submit to the wife" (heather)

True, not in actual terms so much. But one must realize they aren't Lord over their wife also - a point I make with Paul from Gal 3:28 - 'we are all one'. Even Jesus states this clearly - 'one' - as in not seperate - no higher, no lower. One does not compete for status against himself/herself/itself - it just accepts equality amongst it's being.

"Which would make sense, as Christ never submits to the church." (Heather)

Interesting...but I recall somewhere Jesus explicitly stating he 'came to serve, not to be served' - implying he'd take the role of the lower vs. the role of Lord - touche'? So yeah he did submit to the bride.

"The husband is called out to love his wife, but love her as he loves his own body, which can drift into the property areas." (Heather)

The same arguement can be made for 'loving our neighbor as ourself' (heck we could be brutal to ourself) - but the implied meaning is anyone that 'loves' themself will not hurt themself - ie: theology of Eve from Adam. It doesn't make the women 'less than' so much as it defines there will be definite care for them (something I am guessing that era's society could not so much as provide). I see it is a standard - to a higher status for the woman - which should continue to this day - but not so mucch it becomes more important than it's conuterpart either (which seemed partly to be the fear of Paul).

"The love shown here is, in many ways, the love of a superior over a non-superior (Christ to the church)" (Heather)

It can be seen that way - but name one superior that gives it life for it's counter-part (as the normative level of committment)? Heck my vows said nothing like that - and I took the obligatory obvious vows. So aren't wew talking about a 'level of love' that exceeds what is accepted and known in society (even to this day) anyways?

"part of Christ's love was doing what humanity couldn't do for itself" (Heather)

That is part or it - we are also told the 'greatest love one can have for another is to lay down their life for them' (which is said as a teaching). He isn't doing something he doesn't see us doing. But of we are incapable of fulfilling the law as the Messiah - cool - God provided - and even taught us a more humane way to live in the process.

"But the Ephesians verse does not hold the equality attitude." (Heather)

Possibly, but that depends on what you want to see there and emphasize. Vs.33 is the actual point of the mini-sermon - in there it would seem the writer is calling for equality - again this is based on the idea of oneness - they are 'one' - which is mentioned right after that verse. Based again on Adam and Eve - wo(man) came from man - but irregardless - they are 'one'.

"The wife is called to submit/respect and the husband is to love -- and you can love someone while not treating them as an equal." (Heather)

The only one adding in the inequality is you - it is neither mentioned in the analogy nor in the original meaning of marriage (oneness from Adam and Eve). Nowhere does Paul even hint at it - but we all read it like it's there - why? Cause of the 'subjection' of the wife mentioned. I would totally agree Heather if Paul states the wife is worth less then the man somewhere - but as it is - he is to care for her (as he does for himself) - no less and no more - which means she is afforded his status in some senses (which is still better then what she was getting in society)...that 'oneness'.

"And that is the attitude that was prevelant in keeping women as second-class" (Heather)

I disagree here...that was the mis-interpretation that kept it going - but we can see with less clouded eyes these days (thank God). I am all for woman as equals to me in every regard and way in this society - and I think we need to start telling others this - including church leaders that teach pure BS about women's roles.

Heather said...

Society,

I am not denying that there are other verses that call out for equality. And I do sincerely wish those were used more. I kind of touched on this in the disclaimer in my blog I recently added for this, but part of the difficulty I see in using other verses to explain this one is that it can come across as this verse can't stand on its own. The other verses can be used to "soften" the Ephesians verse, and say that what's in the Ephesians verse doesn't mean what it says it means. I am focusing on this verse, and what it says. Not what other verses say it says, or how it should be. Again, I am not denying that Jesus says we are all to be one, and Paul mentions elsewhere about equality -- but taken the Ephesians as it stands, there is no hint of that. Any sense of equality given in this verse is almost something applied to it, from other verses. It just seems like there are suddenly people saying that Ephesians doesn't mean what it says, it means something else. Something inferred, or something implied, and that this approach is taken because of what's actually stated in the verse. Except we live in a society where the wife traditionally submitting is no longer seen as acceptable, and so it has to be re-worked.

And that's the thing -- there is no outside application needed for the Galations verse, or the verse in Corinthians about love. There isn't this amount of work going into those verses that says, "Here's what they really mean." Yet it is for verses such as this Ephesians verse, or in other verses. And I wonder if a lot of that is because the straightforward reading makes people uncomfortable and so they have to make it go away (note: I don't mean this in a sarcastic way, or that you and others are pulling all sorts of vague assertations out of the air and I See Things As They Are Aren't I Special. I use 'straightforward' in the sense that here's how the words mean to me when reading in-depth, and a non-straightforward is using other verses (in-depth) to interpret that verse. And so I start asking myself why it's necessary, and is it coming across as circumventing something?)

What I think that's being said in those other passages is equality. I don't think that's being said in this Ephesians section, and I'm not saying I see it in every single Bible verse.

**I think Paul uses the term bride? Is this to say we are not equal to Christ - well you tell me? **

I don't think bride signified equality, though. The bride was protected by parents, and then transferred to the husband's care. Even to be considered the bride of Christ is to submit one's will to Christ, and follow Christ.

I also am familiar with the being "fellow-heirs" with Christ. This might get into a trinitarian issue, of which I'm not familiar, but which part of Christ would they consider to be fellow-heirs with? The human portion? Except my understanding is the church/Christ correlation is used in terms of church/God-Christ.

**but I recall somewhere Jesus explicitly stating he 'came to serve, not to be served' - implying he'd take the role of the lower vs. the role of Lord - touche'? So yeah he did submit to the bride. **

Except he submitted to God's will, which required Jesus being put to death on a cross, and allowing people to kill him (I see it as a difference, you might not. You might see that submission to the people or the will of the people, but I see it as submission to God, whatever that required).

**I disagree here...that was the mis-interpretation that kept it going - but we can see with less clouded eyes these days **

The attitude I was referring to was the concept that to love someone, one can act in a way that's "best" for them, such as how slaves or women were treated previously. One of the justifications for slavery was "for their own good" and even out of a sense of "love" for them.

**The only one adding in the inequality is you - it is neither mentioned in the analogy nor in the original meaning of marriage (oneness from Adam and Eve). **

I'm not sure what you mean here. You reference that I'm adding an inequality in saying that one can love someone while not treating them as an equal, and you can do this. I gave four examples of how you can do that, and thus the "dark side" of love. I wasn't saying that Paul used those examples, but how the verse can be taken in telling someone to love another person, and how that can be applied using this text.

But as for inserting inequality in the verse itself ... I'm sorry, but there is still the fact that the wife is not compared to Christ, and the husband is, as well as some other reasons that I've stated previously.

What it comes down to is that this verse -- whether a wrong interpretation or not -- has done some tremendous damage throughout the centuries (as have others), and we must understand why. To say that it was simply mis-interpreted, or doesn't really mean that, does a disservice. Why? Because it doesn't address the reasons as to why the verse was interpreted the way it was. In my post on this, I highlighted some reasons, and some elements I found in it that weren't pleasant. To say that "well, the wife is to submit, but the husband is to love as Christ, so it's all good and was just misinterpreted" angers me, it really does. It's dismissing the injustice that occured throughout history due to a warped reading of the Bible, and doesn't do anything to address why someone read it the way they did. And not just because that's how culture was back then -- but because of what can be found in the verse itself.

SocietyVs said...

"I don't think bride signified equality, though" (Heather)

Okay I am going to go through this and you can re-check it for clarity - from genesis - to Matthew - to Ephesians (and wherever else it is mentioned). They are 'one' - as in there is nothing inseperable in that (no status of higher/lower) - assumed equality of the wholeness of the man and woman as equals is there. The man and woman = 1 (not 2) - so they are inseperable by virtue in marriage - making them equal parts in the whole entity of what is a marriage...thus they are one (Eph 5:31). This is the comparison of Christ and the church - we may have came from Christ but we are equal with him (adopted children)...not lower - through Him of all things. The idea we are one (women and men) is very merited from Paul's (and Jesus') teachings.

"but which part of Christ would they consider to be fellow-heirs with?" (heather)

The part that asks them to love their neighbor (I am not sure what part that is?).

"I was referring to was the concept that to love someone, one can act in a way that's "best" for them" (heather)

Doesn't mean that can't be a current misinterpretation? I think it is - I have found many - what makes me think isn't one of them? I am almost dead sure it is.

"But as for inserting inequality in the verse itself ... I'm sorry, but there is still the fact that the wife is not compared to Christ" (heather)

But the wife is compared to 'us' (the bride)...and as mentioned - the man and woman are 'one' - not seperate - and as a united wholeness - which means there is no divising up of the 'one being' - but all is equal. If you relate this back to Adam and Eve you will see it very clearly - they just were equal - even if Eve came from Adam - they needed each other (even Adam testifies to this thus the call for an Eve). Both are equal and are one - there is no seperation - nothing - even Jesus testifies to this in his saying about marriage.

"To say that it was simply mis-interpreted, or doesn't really mean that, does a disservice. Why? Because it doesn't address the reasons as to why the verse was interpreted the way it was." (Heather)

Yes it does - they were wrong about it plain and simple and horrendously so. Now we need to stand our ground and make this known all arounnd us - we are all 'one' - and this comes through in wo(man) and man - Eve and Adam = both from God's creation as equals. Find me one aspect of that creation where Adam is better than Eve - if anything he was 'less than' as we see.

"To say that "well, the wife is to submit, but the husband is to love as Christ, so it's all good and was just misinterpreted" angers me, it really does." (Heather)

Hey I gave you more than that to chew on so don't make a bad guy. I admit the past abuses and fully realize the problem (as much as I can as a guy) - and I call for total reform - if that only effects the life around us - that's better than nothing at all. If you wanna blame some piece of writing 'cool' - but I will not go that route - I'll put the blame squarely where it needs to be put - on the people that 'believe that idea' (since they are destroying the biblical standard and humanity with it). I am down with the equality issue - so is Paul - so is Jesus - from what I can tell - but of you wanna rip Ephesians out the bible - be my guest - won't change anything around you. Let's take a stand for this faith that means something. I say 'equality or nothing' - let's not settle for 2nd best in a society that has the capacity to know better.

SocietyVs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

Shoot, I think I somehow deleted my comment. I'll just incorporate in my comment over at the other end.

**Hey I gave you more than that to chew on so don't make a bad guy.**

I did say that it made me angry because of the injustices committed due to a warped reading of the Bible -- if it came across as an attack, I apologize.

SocietyVs said...

Heather, I can never be mad at you or anything even close to anger - you help to make me a better person - questioning the core of my beliefs (Jesus' teachings) - and I will always appreciate you for that!

SocietyVs said...

Heather I can't believe you stay up this late to write - lol- all I can say - now that's perseverence on your part!

SocietyVs said...

Caught me in a 'Jesus Christ Pose' - check out the Soundgarden lyrics:

"And you stare at me
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out
Like you've been carrying a load
And you swear to me
You don't want to be my slave
But you're staring at me
Like I need to be saved

In your Jesus Christ pose

Arms held out
In your Jesus Christ pose
thorns and shroud
Like it's the coming of the Lord
And I swear to you
That I would never feed you pain
But you're staring at me
Like I'm driving the nails

In your Jesus Christ pose

And you stare at me
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out like it's
The coming of the Lord
And would it pay you more to walk on water
Than to wear a crown of thorns
It wouldn't pain me more to bury you rich
Than to bury you poor
In your Jesus Christ pose"

Heather said...

Society,

**Heather I can't believe you stay up this late to write - lol- all I can say - now that's perseverence on your part!**

I think I'm going to blame you for this one. :) I was going to go to bed about an hour ago, and then I saw that you commented, and I couldn't sleep while response-comments floated in my head, so ... your fault! :-P

SocietyVs said...

LOL - Heather that's whay you are much apprecited - you 'come as you are' and no regrets - Thank you!

jim said...

Perhaps Paul's teaching was a step up, as you put it, though whether it is a huge step is relative I guess.

Society "I am quite aware that Paul was dealing with a whole new system of teachings and needed to lay down some ground rules for the people to treat one another decently - people (gentiles) that were new to this faith system and likely had ideas about women that were not so progressive as Paul's."

Ground rules (?)... Not holding to the verbal plenary view of the Bible anymore I wonder if this is a case of Paul compromising and actually drifting away from the inclusive worldview of Jesus? In that case is it a step up or a step back? Is Paul intentionally or not actually encouraging a new form of religiousness for the sake of order?

I'm reading The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity right now. How soon did "we" begin to drift away from the unadulterated Kingdom of God to the new religion, Christianity? Would (did / does) Jesus want these ground rules for his followers?

(Sorry for the string of rhetorical questions... not expecting you answer them... just sharing my present approach to texts/issues like this one)

SocietyVs said...

Good questions Jim - I still Paul was teaching the best he could for his day - and he was likely torn between old religious values from within Judaism (as his basis) and how to approach the ideas of women in this faith...did he teach very culturally about it - I think so. But I also see his views about women and the idea of 'two flesh become one' as something quite interesting indeed - it would seem to me even Paul see's equality in this teaching idea...but I am not sure if the times were as ready for it.

BrotherKen said...

Society, I do not believe Jesus (or Paul) wanted in His day to teach that women should be an equal in the marriage relationship. This will irk many out there, but I believe many problems have resulted BECAUSE of this societies attempt to make women an equal.

There are different levels involved here. The private relationship between a man and wife, the public relationship between men and women, and the business relationship of men and women. Then there is the status of women in the church. Why is it such a hard thing to read some of what the Bible says about women? Because we have accepted something that was never taught... that women are equal to men.

Women are not equal to men! There should really be no thought as to who is greater, it is a matter of knowing our role in the relationship. The man is set up as the "head of the household" which is a responsibility that needs to be lived up to. He fails if he does not do his best to love honor and cherish his wife.

Things can work if we try to make it an equal partnership, but I personally believe that marriage relationships can be so much better . Society would see so much more in the Christian movement if they saw that there was something uniquely special about the relationships in the Christian circle. Instead, we see no real difference.

I will not claim to know why men and women are designed to accept a different role in the relationship, but I will tell you that it is obvious to me that this obsession with equality is degrading the health of marriage relationships immensely.

There is no greater or lesser in the healthy marriage - they are of one mind, spirit and purpose, and each has a specific role to play, both in complete support and respect of the other.

Of course, this is all just the way it is designed to be. None of this suggests that a woman is helpless and hopeless without a man. Nor does it mean that a man is incomplete without a woman. It just means that if a man and a woman are to unite, this is the way it should be. This is the way that God knows we will be happiest.