Category Archives: egalitarianism

Women need respect, men need love (2): Women need respect!


From the first paragraph of the ‘love and respect’ book, underlining done by sheila Gregoire

In part 1 of this series I reacted against the slogan ‘women need love, men need respect’ that seems a US import slogan linked to bad marriage advice that is rather pervasive in certain evangelical circles, with some pop-psychological weirdness attached to it.

I am well aware that it should be more than obvious that all people, of all genders need both love and respect, in and out of marriage relationships. There should be no question about that. And actually, all that I’m saying here should just be common sense. I’m rather shocked that it isn’t for some people. But as my title indicates,  I strongly feel that it might good to emphasise, in our time and culture, that women really need respect and men really need love too.

I’ve already touched upon in my last post that the original version of the saying has been abused and made into an ideology that has been destructive for vulnerable marriages. The series on Sheila Gregoires blog from last week had some very extreme examples of that. (Watch out, disturbing stories there)
Yes, it’s true that normal people with healthy relationship skills and enough love and respect probably would just take a message of ‘don’t be selfish’ from the book, as Sheila already said in her post, but there’s still a poison in the book, and it seems also in similar ‘Christian marriage books’ that focus on the supposed needs of the man which are much more important that those of the wife. Not everybody gets bitten when they meet an European adder, and because a healthy person usually won’t die when bitten, that we need to encourage all people to go play with adders, is it?

I50861956_342361363022927_3993856368762159104_nt’s quite clear if you actually read the verse that the whole theory is built on that ‘psychological needs’ are not what Paul had in mind in Ephesians 5:33, and none of the abuse that the book brought haver happened if men would actually love their wife as they love themselves, as that verse also very clearly says. Which is a clear command, and not a hint about pop-psychological needs.

The poison is very clear if we follow Sheilas series (1 2 3 4), and damaging for both sexes: the advice of unconditional respect for the man can lead to bad relationships and ruined marriages.
Which by the way means that on the other side of each of these stories the teaching has turned a man into someone who isn’t even able to be in a healthy relationship, and -very ironically since we’re speaking about supposedly Christian teaching here-, a bigger sinner than he should and could have been, led astray from Christlikeness and turned into the likeness and image of a toxic ‘manliness’ that is in certain aspects the opposite of how Christ wants us to grow. Entitled narcissism is a good way to create hell here on Earth, both for yourself and the people closest to you. But we will not focus on the the male side here, which will be for a next post.

So let’s go back to the title: Women need respect!

Yes, I know: It’s very weird and discouraging that such a thing even needs to be said. Someone once said that feminism is the radical idea that women are human, and the sad thing is that we still need to hear that in Western society of the 21st century sometimes. Porn culture and male-dominated sexism are still pervasive in our world, turning the sexes against each other. And this often means that even the basic respect of treating the other like a person is lacking.
As a Christian we should never join this toxic tendency, for it is pure antichrist toxicity. Jesus Himself treated everyone as a person, and showed a lot of respect for all kinds of people who were often not treated as a full person in his own culture and society. Sadly this indeed included women too in his world, as it sometimes does today. But he didn’t bother with those societal patterns at all and broke all of the rules whenever they were in conflict with ‘love your neighbour’.

Think for example of the Samaritan woman in John 4, with whom a lot of barriers existed: Men didn’t talk to women, Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans, and so on. Jesus doesn’t bother at all with these things. Neither did he bother with those petty restrictions he when Mary of Bethany breaks all societal patterns  in which only men could listen to a rabbi. Or when they bring the woman caught in adultery before him.
Jesus certainly didn’t find the idea that ‘women are human’ a radical idea, even though some of the people around him might have been shocked by his inclusion of women as much as with his inclusion of both the oppressed and outcasts like the Samaritans and chronically ill, as well as the oppressors -who also were outcasts- in the form of the Roman soldiers. But his friendships with women were very remarkable for his time and culture, especially the gospel of Luke was quite scandalous in that regard!

All of this is basic biblical knowledge. If we are to call ourselves Christians this means that any societal rule that prevents us from respecting others made in the Divine Image should be dismissed. I don’t even need to refer to my own adherence to Christianity though, since this is a very basic form of humanism that should be common sense to all of us moderns, even though it still might be revolutionary for some if I look around. The sad truth is still  that in a lot of circumstances a lot of women (among other humans) do not get the basic respect they deserve as human beings even. This always is an injustice that should be countered!

Every human being, including every woman, needs to be seen as a fellow Image of God. None of them (regardless even of how they present themselves to us, not even a sexy model in an ad) should ever be treated as a mere sex object that is enjoyed and preyed on as such in porn culture, and seen as an evil temptation to be avoided in certain religious circles. Certainly both are two versions of the same evil, and and as I said before in other posts: one of the best remedies is simply friendship. Personally I have no idea how a marriage or sexual relationship in general would even be possible without friendship at all. But friendship should be our basic impulse towards every person of the other sex that we meet. If we would do that the respect I’m speaking of here would always be present!

And so it still needs to be said: Women need respect!

So how much more important is this in a monogamous partnership that is supposed to be based on love as our Western marriages are? It’s rather obvious that i f we don’t give someone the basic respect as a person that ‘love’ won’t even be an option, let alone loving someone as yourself as Paul says in the verse that the ‘love and respect’ stuff is based on.

If you can’t treat someone as a person you have no business being with them. You will only hurt them, and  respect is something that is very easily naturally reciprocated in a healthy relationship but also often dies when it isn’t… I keep on saying things that should be entirely obvious,  but any relationship needs respect from two sides, otherwise it can and should not go very deep. And a relationship that goes so deep as a marriage does cannot survive in a meaningful without mutual respect, and love is impossible without it.

It doesn’t matter what the gender of a person is, we all need to be treated as a person especially by our life partner.  And the opposite of respect is one of the most destructive things in a relationship. Contempt is one of the most dangerous things that can be added to a relationship, and one of the most sure ways to kill either the love or the whole marriage.

And while I’m writing all of this I still have a nagging voice that says. ‘this is just too obvious to write down’. But when I read stuff like what I’ve read last week on Shelia Gregoire’s blog, or discussions in certain Facebook groups, or thinkabout certain relationships I’ve seen go to ruin in my live I fear that I’m naive.

It needs to be said again and again.
It needs to be shown to the world.
It needs to be shown to the church too I’m afraid!
It needs to be live out and be a light.
We need to be a friend who shows respect!
We need to crush all forms of dehumanisation!
Women need respect!
All people do!

So what do you think?

peace

Bram

The sexist umbrella that makes no sense at all


The subtitle of this blog is ‘My book of the damned’, because I sometimes touch on subjects that are completely off the radar for most people, even though they might be rather interesting or important.

Today we have the opposite, instead of saving something from the realm of damned and shining light on something interesting that is ignored by the mainstream I’ll shine some light on something that should be banished to far beyond the realm of the damned because it’s both harmful and stupid.

I’m speaking of the so-called ‘umbrella of protection’ diagram here, which seems to be used in certain ‘Christian” environments to explain how the order of the family is supposed to be. According to someone in my facebook list it’s even used in Flemish churches, although I’ve never encountered it myself luckily.

Just look at it for some seconds. Think about how umbrellas work. This is not how umbrellas work. Not even my little ponyland or Utopia are there laws of physics and logic that could be bended to make an umbrella work like this. No matter how you twist the whole thing, all umbrellas except the biggest one will always be redundant.

Now I know that a bad metaphor does not necessarily make an idea invalid,  and neither does a bad explanation of it.  So I know that I have to say something about the ideas behind the whole thing. But I can be rather short.

If the idea that the man is the mediator of God for the wife, and the wife is the mediator of God (through the man?) for the children, then the basics of Christianity are denied here. And the basics of protestantism too (the priesthood of all believers. Making the man a priest for all of his household members has some very weird theological implications outside of Christianity (like nullifying the idea that Christ brings is the one who connects us to God for women and children). And it’s as nonsensical as the ‘all men are leaders, all women are followers’ trope. No, most men are not leaders (and some women are). If everyone is a leader the word doesn’t even have any meaning anymore. And even though they are a minority, the bible certainly has a lot of women leaders and a lot of men who are not leaders.

If this is solely about protection then even psalm 23 doesn’t make sense in this worldview, and is only for me. Women should pray ‘my man is my shepherd, mediating the Lord for me’, while children should say ‘my mother is my shepherd, mediating my father who is mediating the Lord for me’. This is pure nonsense. God will protect anyone, and needs no authority over us to do so.

Hagar in the Desert

Think for example of Abraham, one of the most notorious figures in the history of religion, and certainly a man of God even though not always the best example in family relationships. When his wife Sarah kicks out his pregnant second wife Hagar the angels protect her, even though she just lost her ‘male umbrella’ according to this umbrella paradigm. Later the same thing happens with her son Ishmael when he’s 13. (Picture Gheorghe Tattarescu, 1870, Romania, I doubt angels actually look like that though)  God can protect any of us well enough without having any ‘umbrella’ of any authority over us. And for sure, we should protect the ones we love, but the whole hierarchy chain of the umbrella theory is very cramped and weird.

Where does it come from? It appears that this scheme comes from some bloke called Bill Gothard, who’s also leader of a homeschool movement and seems to be a rather weird cult leader (A FB-friend of me has been hurt and traumatised severely by his influence when growing up). His institute has even turned the theory and other rather weird authoritarian things in very cute but rather brainwashing songs for children and as you see from that link and the comments, more people have been very much hurt, damaged and traumatised by his approach.That alone should be enough to just discard the whole thing, and watch out for his influence in Evangelicalism. Here’s a good introduction to the story of Gothard (although not a super readable website) for those who want to dig deeper, and the afore-linked homeschool anonymous site has interesting stuff too.

To add a layer of irony, this whole Authoritarianism-gone-wrong stuff thwatchmanat is so pervasive in American Christianity is partly a Chinese import. Like the creepy extreme shepherding movement, Gothard is influenced by Watchman Nees ‘Authority and submission’ paradigm, which puts extreme emphasis on absolute submission.  (sample chapter from Nee here) Watchman Nee as a Chinese Christian was influenced by his culture -as anyone is- and imported a bit of Confucius here when it comes to the role of authority and hierarchy, which was taken to an unbalanced extreme.  For those who like to check for themselves: Here’s the whole reasoning behind the theory of ‘umbrella protection’ which is very clearly influenced by Nee if you’re familiar with his way of thinking.

But let’s go back to the diagram and look at it as it is drawn.  if we just open our eyes, the diagram itself cannot hide the truth that all of this is plain nonsense and the truth is still plain and open for anyone with eyes to see. The only ‘umbrella’ we need is the protection of God Himself. No other umbrella under it would ever do anything at all and they are all useless and unneeded…

Yes, we all are a blessing to each other, and we all help each other, but we’re all under the same umbrella together. It’s a basic Christian truth God is available to all of us through Christ.

peace

Bram

The friendship is the benefits (on Christian egalitarianism and cross-gender friendships)


I haven’t been blogging much lately apart from last weekend, but I seem to be full of thoughts that need out, and I’m trying to rely less on Facebook than I used to do -battling an addiction and winning?-, so I might return to blogging here more.

I’ll start with saying that I’m not following everything that’s going on in the US or in US Christianity, but I’ve been following a bit of the situation with the megachurch of Willow Creek from here. and the possible sexual misconduct of Bill Hybels -a man who always seemed rather respectable to me by the way- .  I am by no way qualified to say something about that situation, but the legendary blogger Andrew Jones has a good overview here with some important questions at the Tall Skinny Kiwi blog. (glad to see him blogging again by the way!)

One of the links that Andrew has collected in his post is a very interesting analysis of Dan Brennan here. Dan is one of the biggest experts in this age on Christianity and cross-gender friendships in the world as far as I know, at least in the English-speaking world. (See all my posts about his book ‘sacred unions, sacred passions’ here) HE has some interesting observations about a certain kind of ‘anxious’ egalitarianism that he sees as quite pervasive in certain American circles:

I was in for a big surprise when I started to go public about my friendships with women a little over ten years ago. I thought evangelical egalitarians would enthusiastically see all the benefits of intentional spiritual friendships out in the open. It was quite a jolt to me when I began to run into skeptical egalitarians.

To say I encountered spiritual anxiety among these unconvinced Christians would be an understatement. It was not that they were opposed to cross-sex friendships. They had plenty of opposite-sex friends.

What, then, were they anxious about? It soon became clear to me: my intention to practice dyadic opposite-sex friendships before a watching world. They were highly anxious in men and women sharing authentic power and risk in one-on-one relationships with no one else around. Friendship was not foundational to any Willow Creek model. It was not even up there on the high priority list.

Again, note here I can’t comment on whether this is actually true for certain circles, and my goal here is not to point my finger to certain groups that are on another continent from me, but to find out what the most Christlike way of living and interacting is, and which examples should be emulated and which examples are lacking. And what we can learn from that, either by seeing what we should do, or what we shouldn’t do.

Let’s first say that I certainly am an egalitarian and strongly believe that cross-gender friendships are a healthy thing, for several reasons. When it comes to the reasons that some Christians want to hear first, the ones derived from the bible and the Christian tradition, both more or less have the same foundation:  Jesus who broke all rules of gender segregation that his culture had is an important one to start with. Think of the Samaritan woman at the well, the story of Mary & Martha, and as I pointed out in my last post Mary Magdalene in the garden-. Paul speaking of ‘no male and female in Christ’ is another one. And just the idea of calling each other brother and sister is also a quite powerful -that’s not just a metaphor, people-. Every person is our brother and sister, and needs to be treated as such, with the same love and respect we would treat an actual sibling. (Yes, looking at our sisters as sex objects would be creepy and evil if looked at it that way.)

I also am naturally inclined by my personality type to friend women as easily as men, and any person who will tell me than male-female friendships are impossible is more or less doing something like telling Mr. beaver of Narnia that animals cannot talk.

I’d also say people who are unable to have equal cross-sex friendships are missing something in their humanity, and that New Testament Christianity quite easily leads to the conclusion that all people of all genders should be treated as friends. And that looking at people as sexual objects, either as a prey in our fantasy or as a temptation that we should get away from at all costs is, is a serious disregard of the humanity of our sister.

(Note that I’m speaking as a straight male here but that you can fill in whatever gender  or sex you are that fits for yourself and whom you’re attracted to. It’s applicable to all genders and sexual orientations)

I’m not the only one who has picked up on Dan’s important observations. The internetmonk blog also extensively quotes his blogpost in a post called “Friends without benefits“. Chaplain Mike ends his post with the following points:

In our sexualized society, it is easy to understand why some people might want to erect strong, rule-based boundaries about cross-sex relationships. I have news for you. Those boundaries haven’t stopped or even slowed down immoral behavior, and if I read Paul correctly, trying to control sin by implementing law only exacerbates the problem (Romans 7).

I believe God calls us to maturity and wisdom in all of our relationships. I have long been “egalitarian” in my theological position (I’d rather say I believe in full partnership and mutuality between men and women). But this article has caused me to question a huge blindspot in egalitarian teaching and practice. We have not truly learned to welcome each other, live with each other, and serve one another as true brothers and sisters until we can learn to be friends. Without benefits.

Very important points again, although I have some quibbles with his title. I’d say that the friendship itself is enough of a benefit, not? I already don’t like the expression of just friendship’. There is something very wrong if there’s an actual friendship going on and you call it being ‘just’ friends, a if being friends is not something worth celebrating in this superficial lonely culture… So as my own title here says, I’d say that ‘the friendship is the benefits’!

In a world where people of the other sex (or any sex you find attractive) are so often reduced to a commodity to satisfy your lustful thoughts actually seeing people as humans like us made in Gods image, and treating them as friends, and sisters and brothers of equal value as we have ourselves might be a revolutionary way of living. But in the end it’s just a very logical application of ‘love your neighbour’.

Not dehumanising people into sex objects -to abuse or run away from as a temptation- and just being friends with them are two extremely basic ways of loving your fellow human I would say… And that’s the core of the question. When we grow on our spiritual Path with Christ -who friended all kinds of women including prostitutes, which were never referred to as sex objects of either category by Him, but as fellow human beings in need of love- we should  be able to go much deeper than that. Just being brothers and sisters is the beginning, like learning the ABC when there are whole libraries to read, and all of us will add our own book to them.

peace

Bram

See also on this blog:
Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles, and the Risen Jesus
Jesus against the sexism of his time: Martha and Mary
10 old traditional and/or biblical Christian ideas that are sometimes mistakenly seen as ‘progressive’…
Some thoughts on the myth that ‘men are visual’
On nudity in game of thrones, and some American bloke again…(the ‘bloke’ being John Piper)
On similar misandry in Christian fundamentalism and consumer capitalism?
‘Male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa
A Christian reaction to porn that doesn’t dehumanise the objectified further?
sexual dominoes vs the fruits of the Spirit
on sexy porn models and human dignity
Meditating on sexy models