Tag Archives: egalitarianism

Women need respect, men need love (3) Men need love, and not just sex…


This is the third part in my ‘Women need respect, men need love’ series (part 2 here), where I try to look at the male side of the whole ‘women need love, men need respect’ mess, which will alo be the longest of the three. (After all, the only perspective I can write from is from that of a straight married man.) And I must say that I’m appalled by how men are described in this kind of discourse, as if we are oversexed animals driven only by a few primitive needs, with no selfcontrol and not really a need for love even.See also for example my post On similar misandry in Christian fundamentalism and consumer capitalism? from 5 years ago already. Porn and a certain kind of sexist fundamentalism are creepily close actually, and the same dehumanising ideology under porn and hook-up ideology is also present in this kind of funamentalism. The only main difference I can make out is that one side gives in to the animalistic sexuality they see as default, while the other more or less tries to tame it in marriages. But apart from that they’re rather the same, n

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

matter how much pretence of being ‘biblical’.

It would be an understatement I felt quite insulted as a man and as a Christian when I read Sheila Gregoires overview of the ‘love and respect’ view of what men want sexually and how they should be ‘respected’  I still feel the same way every time I reread it. Let’s add a shortened version here to refresh:

She honors her husband’s authority in the marriage, allowing him to make the decisions. She does not speak up when she disagrees with him, even if he is being selfish and seriously burdening her.(…)This is true even in cases where he is a workaholic; drinking too much; or having an affair. (…) No matter what, in all of these cases, she regularly gives him sexual release, without any regard for her own feelings, understanding that this is a need that he has, and that he cannot show her love without it. (source)

There’s a lot of toxic things in here, but at this moment there ‘s 3 very dangerous things jumping out for me:(1) erasing communication in a relationship will never do any good, and can only make it worse for both partners (2) the idea that a man feels respected when he’s tread as a despotic narcissist is just beyond alien to me. How you can have an intimate relationship without communication?
But the ultimate creepiness, and the ultimate degradation of the male side in the equation is like I already said (3); the idea that mere ‘sex as release’ is the driving need for men.

And then to say that those views are based on a verse from Paul that says that men need to love their wives as themselves is too much cognitive dissonance for me to handle. Note that Paul uses the verse to correct an asymmetry in gender patterns in his world, not at all to express pop-psychological needs, let alone express an absolute need for men and a desire for women that’s less important as the ‘love and respect’ doctrine seems to teach. I would assume it would be the other way around anyway: Love your wife as yourself is the most important command here, and there’s no way explaining it away if you really strive to be ‘biblical’. But alas; I have given up believing that US fundamentalists care one inch about being biblical though, so I’m not surprised anymore by this butchering of scripture, although it saddens me a lot to see how this kind of thinking can vaccinate couples against deep intimacy. Which is a very hideous thing!

Yes, no one can deny that in a way men need respect (as all people do), but I’ve already there is no actual respect in being treated as an entitled narcissist. Gender is irrelevant even, all people need basic respect, and all relationships need mutuality in that, especially if we’re speaking about an intimate relationship. Let’s also remark again that there is absolutely no respect in  not being communicated to.

Now let’s take this overview of what the ‘love and respect’ doctrine teaches about men and their ‘need for sex’:

Men need physical release. They experience this as respect. If you don’t give it to them, they will be tempted to have affairs or to ogle other women.
Sheila Gregoire summarising ‘love and respect’

This kind of thinking might come from a man who wants to excuse his own weaknesses, but still is extremely denigrating and dehumanising to men. Why does the worst misandry always come from men who claim to defend their own gender? Yes, men desire sexual release among other things, but we are humans, not animal slaves to our bodies, and we certainly will survive without ‘getting release’. Men can and should have selfcontrol. That’s what the bible tells us too. That’s what I was told as a teenager as one of the reasons why having no premarital sex is a good idea: it’s a training in selfcontrol, and even within marriage there will be times that there is no sex. And a man is able to survive that, and love his wife. And still have other forms of intimacy with her.

It’s also nonsense to say that mere ‘physical release’ is the reason of most affairs. Most men are looking for something that’s missing in their relationship. Often even love and being understood and stuff like that.

The ‘men just need sex’ trope, combined with the myth of the absence of male selfcontrol is not just insulting, but it’s also very destructive for men as well as for their relationships when they start to believe that crap, making them aim for much less than they could and should be. Which isn’t only bad for them, but also for their lovers to, who deserve much better.

But we probably shouldn’t be surprised that some people think this way: it’s the underpinnings of the modern Western porn industry, basic individualistic consumerism, and our human psychology often works with self-fulfilling prophecies: strong beliefs of not being able to do something will very often manifest themselves and be affirmed. It’s bad enough that certain corners of the non-Christian world sell us this nonsense to get people hooked in their web of consumerist screwed-upness, but I expect more from Christians than a complete disbelief in male selfcontrol, and a higher view of what men expect from sex and relationships too.

Both men and women deserve better.

But yes, the male body desires sexual release. (Just as women have a sex drive too by the way) And yet that doesn’t mean that every sexual release as such will actually satisfy or fulfil us in any way. Or that a man always needs to get everything a body asks for. We’re not simple bodily animals. My body also wants sleep at moments that I can’t get it, and more food than is good for me. Not listening to your bodies needs is what makes us human. And just treating sex as mere release is just masturbation, and adding a human partner will not make much difference for that in a way. Except that we use another human being, that we are commanded to love as ourselves according to the bible verse behind the ‘love and respect’ logic to get that physical release.

It makes me feel sad and lonely that this is what people think of sex, even within marriage.  Or of sex at all. If that would be all there was to it I would choose a life of celibacy, and pray to God to make me asexual. Or become one of those people who think sex is indeed by definition dirty, and always a sin and a weakness.

I’d even say that the mere idea that anyone would feel respected by getting sex-as-mere-release from a partner that doesn’t even want it without any actual emotional connection is beyond creepy. It’s a recipe for marital rape even, which I suppose to be punishable by law in any civilised modern country. Any man who’s content with that has no clue what intimacy is.

If that is really what a Christian book about marriage teaches, something is beyond wrong, antichrist even.

But it’s also no wonder that a man who has such a low view of sex, which is affirmed by his experience, might have no qualms with exchanging the source of the ‘relief’ with another one, be it porn, or maybe an affair in which more than this approach to sex is explored or the humanity that the marriage is vaccinated to by this destructive doctrine is sought back.

Because yes, as is very evident, men still need love. We’re as human as women and children are, and don’t differ much from them. Only the worst psychopath who tragically doesn’t have all of his humanity together might not. And while our body might desire sexual release, that is only a small part of the story, and probably one of our desires that is easiest put aside, or transformed into something else.

As Shane Claiborne says:

If we are able to have a healthier understanding of sexuality and to celebrate singleness as well as marriage and family, then we can transcend some of this. One of my mentors is a celibate monk, and he says we can live without sex but we can’t live without love. And there are a lot of people who have a lot of sex and never experience love, and people who never have sex [but] have deep experiences of intimacy and love. (the irresistible revolution)

Everybody needs love.
It’s much more basic than needing sex. And more destructive if we don’t get it.

The big problem is this whole ‘all we need is sex’ stuff. It can never satisfy. It empties sex of meaning and make sex itself more unsatisfying, which is quite ironic when you have put all your hope for fulfilment in sex.

You won’t get any fulfilment, but you will be told that’s all there is.

And this mess is supposed to be male chauvinism… It’s a good recipe for men making themselves worse than they could be, more sinful, and having terrible loveless sex-lives.

If that isn’t beyond sad?

what do you think?

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

10 old traditional and/or biblical Christian ideas that are sometimes mistakenly seen as ‘progressive’…


Foto0067Before we close the year with some lists of the most-read stuff of 2014 and an evaluation of my project of demodernisation (and de-Americanisation, see also here) I will post this one last long and maybe to some controversial blogpost. This time we’ll talk about certain basic Christian ideas or at least ancient minority positions within Christianity that are sometimes regarded as new and ‘progressive’ ideas and thus tied to a new and ‘progressive’ form of Christianity which is incompatible with either the old-fashioned nonsense of the past or the true ‘conservative’ Christianity, depending on which side of the false dilemma one finds themselves. Which is very problematic actually…

I’ve seen the combination of the words ‘progressive Christianity’ gain more and more influence over the last years on the English-speaking internet. The term itself is like other words including ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ a term that I find utterly unhelpful and quite ambiguous .  I’ve also seen a lot of very different and sometimes quite contradictory interpretations of what ‘progressive Christianity’ is supposed to be, some of which were interesting to me, and others which weren’t at all… It seems that the expression became more popular (at least in the blogosphere) when the ’emergent’ brand lost its prominence, and that it also took over some of the content of that label, especially in the form of its ‘updated protestant theological liberalism’ (which frankly doesn’t interest me at all as a moderate anti-modernist).

(The main reason that I’ll never use the word ‘progressive’ to describe myself is that I completely reject the modernist myth of ‘progress’, which seems to be the root of the whole idea of contemporary progressiveness. But that’s another story that would only derail this post)

All of this does not mean that ‘progressive Christians’ don’t  have a lot of interesting things to say. A lot of the stuff that progressive Christians believe in and want us to talk about (but not all!) is very important to me too, or at least stuff I agree with… The problem here mostly the false dilemma that some see that I’ve mentioned already: the mistaken idea that ‘progressive Christianity’ (or ’emergentism’, or liberal protestantism, or…)  is a new and better and modern thing (or postmodern or contemporary or whatever word  is used to describe both their chronological snobbery and modern-Western cultural imperialism/neo-colonialism) , something completely distinct from what came before disconnected from it, and better than anything before it anyway.

While the opposite is true: most of the prophetic things that ‘progressives’ have to teach us are quite old, and they are important truths that have a long history within Christianity. Some as a minority-view, some as the majority-view in other times or other Christian traditions. Some normative outside of modernism even…

Let’s also talk here  the confusion of terms with some of the other words besides ‘progressive’ before we start. I’ve written before about the term ‘conservative’, which only means an impulse to conserve a certain tradition. For example the American use of the word ‘conservative’ has nothing to do with ‘conservative Christianity’ as some kind of ancient basic orthodoxy, but with some fairly recent (last 200 years mostly) forms of protestantism tied to the political old-school liberalism of the founding fathers and the American constitution (which has nothing to do with Christian orthodoxy at all!)

Fundamentalism as a Christian movement has not much to do with a basic Christian orthodoxy either. It’s more an early 20th century reactionary antithesis to liberalism, emphasizing not at all the core of historical Christianity but some areas in which they disagreed with liberal theology of that time, which gave a very unbalanced view of what the ‘fundamentals’ of Christianity were that did not follow basic Christian orthodoxy at all. So while fundamentalism might be a photo-negative of classical liberal theology, it still is thoroughly modern in a lot of ways.  (see also this post for my problem with the bad photo-negative copy of it in American anti-fundamentalism, which is itself tied completely to what it tries to escape from)

So let’s list some of the ideas that are rejected by some or all American conservatives and fundamentalists, while embraced by progressives and thus seen as ‘progressive’ (or ‘liberal’)  by a lot of people. Those ideas are not new nor progressive nonetheless but have been part of the rich and diverse history of Christianity from the early days and can be traced back to the bible itself.   Most of them can be solidly defended from a basic orthodox reading of the bible.

(Note also that some of the things that are very important to the current ‘progressives’ are absent from this list because they just don’t fit in the list. Some are new for the modern age or just repackaged old heresies or non-Christian philosophies adopted by liberal Christianity. Rejecting the supernatural -spirits, angels, the afterlife- for example is not a new idea that people  could only come up with after evolving to a new step and entering the modern age. The Sadducees, who were more conservative than the Pharisees, already taught this and Jesus and the NT writers could have easily followed them, but they rejected it in favour of the views of the Pharisees…
But my exclusion of certain progressive ideas from this list doesn’t have to mean that I either agree nor disagree with any of them, just that I did not include them. I probably have forgotten a lot of stuff that could fit in this list….)

1. pacifism and Christian non-violence
I always assumed that pacifism or at least a tendency to non-violence were part of basic Christianity from my reading of the gospels, and especially the sermon on the mount. (I say this as a pentecostal kid living in a post-Catholic Belgian culture btw.) I know that some see it as an ideal that doesn’t always work, but even then, with enemy-love as one of Jesus commandments I could not conceive of Christians who would completely dismiss the idea in favour of militarism.
Great was my shock when I explored the internet as a young twenty-something and discovered Christians (mainly from the US) who completely dismissed the idea of Christian non-violence as dangerous and naive and placed it under the category of ‘liberal nonsense’. Such a view is completely a-historical and completely ignorant of the words of Jesus himself.
Christian non-violence does have a long history. It was prominent in pre-Constantinian times and while it wasn’t the majority position in later times (Even with ‘just war’ doctrine most wars would be seen as illegitimate btw… You can’t defend any of the American wars of the last half century with just war theory for example!) it has popped up regularly in the history of Christianity among groups or people who wanted to take Christ seriously. We see it appear already with the first Christians -who rather died that killed for their faith- over St. Francis of assisi -who went to meet the Sultan unarmed to talk about Christ in the middle of a crusade- and the line goes all the way to the Quakers and Anabaptists, and the modern Christian peacekeeper teams.  Christian non-violence is a deeply biblical idea that has been held in different degrees by a lot of people who took the New Testament and the words of Christ very seriously!

2. Anticapitalism
Recently the pope said some things about capitalism that were not received well by some American evangelicals. But contrary to what some people thought he did not say anything new and did only reword catholic doctrine that was already popetrickleaffirmed by the popes before him. What he said was quite logical for most non-American Catholics and other Christians also. I’ve never understood why capitalism is such a holy cow to certain (mainly American) Christians. It is a very modernist economic idea that has not much to do with classical Christianity but is tied to historical liberalism, and it can devolve very easily into economical and social jungle-law Darwinism, which is the opposite of anything a Christian could ever defend. So while it cannot be linked to the bible being a modern invention, it also goes counter to some Biblical and historically Christian ideas. Look at this list of quotes from the church fathers for example.
I once wanted to write a series about Christianity and capitalism but never got further than this first post  I also have written a post called Abundance is the enemy of capitalism. starting from the biblical idea of abundance as a part of shalom, which is opposed to the capitalist basic principle of scarcity…

I can also add that there is nothing new or ‘liberal’ about vaguely ‘socialist’ ideas and ways of living. The church of Acts was quite ‘communist’, as well as most monastic orders.
And let’s not forget that the only false god that is called by name in the gospels is Mammon, of with Jesus says that he cannot be served together with God…

3. ‘Green’ lifestyles and ecological awareness
If God is Creator (which all Christians including all evolutionary Creationists affirm – as far as I know) , and we are to love God above all, some respect for His creation seems to be very logical to me. Taking care of creation is also a commandment in genesis (unless you see ‘ruling’ as a very oppressive dictatorship, but I would say that we aren’t to do anything to nature we wouldn’t want rulers to do with us…) It always was logical to me that Christians should have a lot of respect for nature as the work of Gods hands, although it might be that this impulse was fed more by my (almost post-)catholic teachers in school than in my pentecostal upbringing.

Premodern people did live a lot closer to nature. Jesus spent a lot of time in nature praying and meditating throughout the gospels. Our modern disconnect with nature is far removed from the world of the bible, but respect for nature as Christians is a tradition that goes back at least to (again) Francis of Assisi, and probably the Celtic Church.
There is no good reason for us to condone destruction of Gods creation in favour of our idols like ‘the economy’ or ‘progress’. None of these does have to have any of our allegiance as followers of Christ…

I could also refer to Pope Francis here, who is rumoured to write an ecological encyclical in 2015  and repeat that there’s nothing progressive at all about conserving nature. If there’s anything at all that deserves to be called ‘conservative’ if that word has any meaning at all, it’s conserving the creation in which God has put us…,
(The same is true for most of the other ‘progressive’ views of Pope Francis. They are -like most things in this list- not new at all and actually quite ‘conservative’ in that they have a long biblical and traditional history)

4. Not taking the first chapters of genesis as literal history
And then for something completely different: I can’t be the only one who has noticed that the debate about a literal reading of genesis does mainly live in fundamentalist and evangelical circles, while it is more of a non-issue in most other classical orthodox denominations, including the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. Which already should say something about how ‘progressive’ the idea of a  non-literal reading of the first chapters of the bible actually is I guess.
There have been a lot of readings of the Creation story throughout church history, some of which were literal while others were completely allegorical. Augustine for example, while writing about ‘the literal interpretation of genesis’ assumes that the seven days where metaphor and that the whole cosmos was created at the same moment…

Even Charles Darwin himself did not think that his ideas of evolution were incompatible with his Christian faith. He did lose it over the cruelness of  nature though.

5. Rejecting the idea of hell as eternal conscious torment for all non-Christians
Another debate that is as old as the history of the Church is the fate of those not in Christ. While universalism has always been a minority position, belief in hell of some sorts seems to be a majority position, the details vary a lot throughout church history. Some of the church fathers seem to tend to very generous inclusivism or even in the direction of hopeful universalism, with some like Origen even arriving at full universalism. (Which means that Christ in his death and resurrection was able to save all from hell, not at all that all religions are the same or so…)
Another part of the discussion is the nature of hell. C.S. Lewis seems (in line with more orthodox church fathers) to see hell as being cut of from God, the Source of all life. Other orthodox thinkers see hell as the same place as heaven, where the undiluted presence of God is unbearable to those who hate Him.

Another alternative idea about the fate of the wicked is Annihilationism (the wicked are just annihilated and cease to exist after the judgement), and old and in origin Jewish idea that has been made popular in more recent times by the seventh-day adventists (also followed by the Jehovah witnesses by the way) for mainly biblical reasons.

6. Rejection of an exclusively ‘penal substitution’ view of the atonement in Christ
And another important discussion, but here the evangelical default itself is historically a more recent minority position: penal substitution atonement as we know it (Jesus saved us by taking Gods wrath upon Himself on the cross) is only as old as protestantism. For the other 1500 years and in other traditions very different ideas existed about how Jesus saved us by his life, death and resurrection. We even see this in the famous Narnia story, where Lewis follows a classical ransom-version of Christus Victor atonement: the sinner (Edmund) is freed from slavery to death and sin (the witch) because Jesus (Aslan) took his place and defeated death and sin in the resurrection… Note that this still IS substitutionary atonement, but not at all penal substitution. (If I understand correctly the idea of penal substitution as some protestants teach it is regarded as abhorrent and even heresy by a lot of Eastern Orthodox thinkers)

I am of the opinion myself that no theory of atonement will ever explain everything that happened so we need a lot of them together to have a more complete picture. Some popular versions of penal substitution, especially when elevated to the level of ‘gospel’ do sound very troubling to me though…

7. Egalitarianism in marriage and women preachers
As a Charismatic I became convinced of egalitarianism between the sexes for biblical reasons. I don’t see how a couple can be ‘one flesh’ as genesis says and still have one who always have to lead and another who always has to follow. I also am convinced by the bible more than by Christian tradition  of the importance of women in every role in the church., Jesus is quite ‘feminist’ (anti-sexist might be a better word) himself compared to his culture, like in the story of Martha and Mary for example, and the early church had a lot of women in a lot of positions, up to the female apostle Junia and the businesswoman Lydia who had a house church in her house.

It’s nonsense to put this kind of egalitarianism away as ‘liberal’ or claim it as solely ‘progressive’. I’ve seen women preachers in African pentecostal churches, and you can say a lot about those, but ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ did in no way apply to them. I’ve never had any interest in the liberal ‘we moderns know better than those dumb bronze-age desert people’ reasoning, and it still doesn’t convince me at all.
I do believe in the need of equality and mutual submission in marriage though for biblical reasons and from experience. I’ve met a lot of women who were used by the Holy Spirit through preaching, and denying that would feel quite a lot like blasphemy against the Holy spirit. God does use women in a lot of roles, and calls individuals for very different things, regardless of their sex.

(Let’s also repeat here that I don’t believe that any idea about ‘biblical manhood’ that does not fit with the fruits of the Spirit as described by Paul has any legitimacy at all. None of that stuff is biblical, it’s just unhealthy cultural stereotypes that are made legitimate by abusing bible verses.)

8. Rejection of the idea of the ‘rapture’ (and of dispensationalism as a whole)
Let’s be short here: the idea of ‘the rapture’ isn’t even 200 years old, so it’s from the same time as a lot of liberal theology. Traditionally most Christians have been amillenialist but there are more interpretations of biblical eschatology that make more sense than the dispensationalist one.
Nothing progressive about rejecting the rapture or dispensationalism, it’s just what every Christian before the 1800’s and most non-evangelicals since then did, whatever their eschatology was…
Some forms of dispensationalism do seem to border on heresy for completely different reasons too though.

9. ‘Mysticism’
Mysticism is a hot word in certain circles, and one that has a lot of different interpretations. The most basic meaning is to experience the presence of God yourself as a believer. It’s nothing new though, there runs a deep mystic tradition through both Eastern and Western Christianity which was already very important in the first centuries of Christianity with the desert fathers and mothers.
What does seem to be new and endemic to certain corners of contemporary progressive Christianity is that mysticism does in some way exclude the idea of supernatural beings. This is completely contrary to a lot of older Christian mystics who did encounter angels, demons and other ‘supernatural entities’ as if it were the most normal thing one could do…

10. Not framing the trustworthiness of the bible as ‘inerrancy’
The bible is very important for Christians for a lot of reasons, and it is one of the means through which we can encounter God. The bible is a library of books that are seen as inspired by God by Christians (‘God-breathed’ according to Paul in a very well-known verse) but the fundamentalist notion of ‘innerancy’ of the literal text of the bible goes further than how Christianity classically saw the bible. It did not by accident come into being around the same time  as the Catholics invented papal infallibility, a time when modernism eroded any faith in trustworthiness of the bible, the Christian tradition or Christian authorities.

This went further than the trustworthiness that premodern Christians ascribed to the bible, and gave rise to the modern ‘new atheist’ reading of the bible which is as far removed from the message of the bible as the fundamentalist one. (They are closely related anyway as purely modernist traditions)

So while I do affirm the trustworthiness of the bible (something that isn’t in the historical creeds btw!) I don’t think we should go looking for scientific or other details that are just not there. And we should not fear contradictions or paradoxes. God can speak truth through things that are not 100% historical as well. We have differences in the 4 gospels, and different theological agendas, even the church fathers knew that, but it wasn’t a problem until modern times (and it still if for the Orthodox and most Catholics…) so maybe we want the bible to be something that it isn’t meant to be.

In the end, the Word that became flesh is Jesus Christ, and the bible is here to point at Him, not at itself… It isn’t a paper pope and if it becomes an idol that distracts from God it’s really sad, not?  We should always seek God and Jesus in the bible, otherwise studying it won’t be of any worth, as Jesus says to the Pharisees somewhere…

So we come to the end of my list of things that are  not at all new to Christianity and can’t be claimed to be exclusively tied to ‘progressive Christianity’, whatever that even may be. Note again that the list is by no means exhaustive, and that I probably overlooked very important ones…

(I didn’t include much that goes against the republican ‘Americanist synchretism’ that some  American conservatives seem to believe in, with America as some holy entity that is more special for God than other countries or cultures. For non-Americans like me such things are too irrelevant and illogical to even address… Neither did I address double predestination for example, which is seen as heresy by the Eastern Orthodox and rejected by most non-protestants…)

So what do you think?

peace

Bram

Some more on authority in sex, egalitarian pleasuring parties and rape fantasies…


[trigger warning: stuff perceived as weird misogyny and rape]

This is a elaboration of what I said in my last post (Read it to understand what I’m talking about…) because the more I think about it, the less sense some things seem to make, and the less I understand the conflicting message of the Gospel Coalition about ‘authority’ in marriage. So after the problems of language, definition and connotation, let’s go back to the real issue discussed here. Some things sound quite contradictory for me, specially when the idea the Gospel Coalition wants to promote is “I am a proponent of marriages that mutually edify, marital sex that is mutually submissive, and Christian relationships in general that “serve and protect” rather than “devour.”” What I read in the GC post Rachel quoted points in a totally different direction actually, at least it does to me as an outsider and non-initiated in the weird world of American ‘complementarianism’, even when I try to read it otherwise, and even if the post is supposed to be against the “50 Shades of Grey and other modern celebrations of perverted sexual authority/submission.”…

There are much more things that shock me in the short post than the problematic assertion that “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.“, that Wilson himself supposes to be the main problem (which is quite problematic indeed, when we remember that colonizing and conquering left half of our planet in ruins after we Westerners got better weapons and more lnowledge in the last 500 years..).

He says that “the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party.”, but I have no idea at all what he means with this cloudy sentence except that it’s though that he seems to be squeezing in the name of a perceived enemy (‘egalitarianism’) that he seems to associate with ‘modern celebrations of perverted sexual authority/submission’, probably to assert their own identity against it and blame it for the evils of the ’50 shades’ stuff.

So exactly how is it that t’he sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasury party’? As far as I know it is evident that sex both partners are equally naked and vulnerable, and surely ‘the sexual act’ needs 2 different bodies doing different things, so it could be said that the two lovers ‘complement’ each other. But I don’t see how a healthy view of sex could not mean in those differences to still have a mutual giving and receiving at the same time. So as for ‘pleasuring’ the other in ‘the sexual act, isn’t it logical that man and woman in their different ways do give everything to give themselves to their partner? In that way the description ‘egalitarian pleasuring party’ is a very good one, and the other way to understand the phrase (2 people doing exact the same thing) is just impossible and nonsense.

But there is more, what I find even more disturbing is the following:

But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine.

Firstly, I am a man and I don’t have rape fantasies, I don’t even understand them, and I don’t want anyone to tell me that they would be normal for people that don’t subscribe to your views on what I can only read as dominion. I am as uninterested in all this authority stuff as I am in rape… As an egalitarian (vaguely, sometimes terms like this carry too much baggage in polarised discussions like this one) I could conclude that these ‘bondage and submission’ games and ’50 shades’ stuff are the unhealthy outcome of an unhealthy system in which endless power plays and dominion damage people… That may be as wrong as Wilson’s theorizing, but to me it seems quite plausible from my kind of view… And connecting this authority-in-sex-gone-wrong just does not make any sense. Sorry.

Btw, aAll this authority-stuff when emphasized all the time will just frustrate people. And especially with a theology that makes 50% of the population supposed to be ‘leaders’ (just because they possess XY chromosomes and a penis) you create a lot of frustration, since having 50% leaders makes most of those ‘leaders’ only leaders in name, with a completely insignificant ‘leadership’, so I can imagine them working that out on their spouses and families, the only place where they can pretend to be the leaders they are only in theory. But again, this is just theorizing in thin air, as much as Wilson is doing in the above quote.

Dominion and powerplay from both sides of the line are not something I enjoy, those things always take a lot of energy that could be used anywhere. It makes me quite frustrated when I encounter people who are too bent on both dominating or being dominated. I probably am a personally ‘naturally egalitarian’ person, and I don’t feel the need to express neither authority not submission towards other human beings; I like relationships as an equal person. (Yes, I will submit to someone if they know more about the job we’re doing, or lead if I am more qualified, but that is a question of role, not of person)

And what the next paragraph means in real life, I can only guess, I understand the words, but they don’t convey anything coherent to me, except when the authority and submission are mutual, which is (as far as I know) the egalitarian point of view that they don’t like :

True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.”

Like I said earlier, the only healthy view of sex that I can understand (and that the Gospel coalition seems to want to affirm) is one of mutual self-giving and receiving, which would mean both mutual authority and mutual giving up all authority towards the other. And to be frank, I do not understand at all why anyone would have authority in sex at all, sex is playful, more like a game you do together… If there is any authority in a game, it’s or defining rules made by it’s Maker, or rules that both the players follow together. I just don’t see how ‘authority’ of the man over the woman would ever work without getting abusive. (And I would see it even less if I believed in Calvinist total depravity)

If you want to talk about authority in sex as a Christian, you should speak about mutual submission to the others authority, and to Gods laws (for example the law of doing everything in love and not abusing the other and pushing the partner to do something they don’t want)

Now, one thing that might be forgotten in this discussion is that the Gospel Coalition seems to have a completely different view of how  authority works than I have.  I would think all Christian authority is based in self-giving, in giving up yourself as Jesus did on the cross. All this talk about authority seems to propagate (to me as outsider) seems to be quite opposite to that, and (at least to me) seems like asserting the importance of dominion and control of certain people over others, and not at all self-giving in love. So I wonder if there’s a underlying problem in theological worldview and definitions… All this talk about submission and authority just gives me the impression of dominion and control, even if they say the whole time that they don’t mean it that way….

(And I always thought that ‘submission’ was the translation of  the word ‘Islam’, not of the the core of Christianity. Self-giving love, like Jesus showed on the cross, may be a better candidate here…)

Now to be short about the 50 shades stuff that the original post reacted to, I don’t know anything about it and I choose to remain unknowing about such things. And like I said already, I agree that rape fantasies and actually all forms of control in sex are sinful… But the problem here is that all this talk of authority and submission for an outsider like me does not promote anything but the idea of sexual control of men over women. If that is not what they mean, they need to use other words and explain what they mean differently… To me they are contradicting each other all the time…

what do you people think?

Shalom

Bram

I don’t understand ‘complementarianism’


I am quite busy this week, and I didn’t plan on contributing to Rachel Held evans’ mutuality week. But eventually this rant had to be written somehow. I hope someone can make sense of it. And even if you disagree with me, take me as an example of someone for whom a lot of traditions seem to be just impossible. Even if I go to far in some directions, from a partial outside blind spots can be seen that insiders will never even would think of…

Warning beforehand: I’m probably naïve, I probably grew up on the wrong planet, and even my own Flemish culture can be alien to me sometimes. So don’t expect me to take American sensitivities and unspoken laws for granted. Being a sometimes rootless postmodern does have a lot of disadvantages, but for a follower of Socrates (Who questioned everything, something which parallels Jewish thought) it has the dubious advantage to easily look through some things that others won’t ever question.

‘Complementarianism’ seems to be a loaded word, if I can rely on what I find when I browse the contemporary Anglo-Saxon Christian blogosphere. If I would not be aware what is meant with it, I would probably heartily wear it as a label: I do happen to believe that not just people in a relationship or marriage, but even most people in most situations, do need to complement each other when they’re doing things together. I don’t think it could ever be otherwise if I’m honest…

But that’s apparently not how people use the word. Christians (mostly of an American evangelical variety) seem to use to word to prescribe role models in marriage that to me are quite alien, and I honestly don’t believe they’d be less alien to a first-century Jew as they are to me. Something that to me looks like old-fashioned Flemish farmers mentality with a bit of lower working-class sexism thrown in. (Accuse me of classism, but when I was working within certain circles I was quite shocked about the sexism and homophobia going on there.) Most descriptions of gender roles that I encountered in this school of thought have not that much to do with the bible, regardless of how much bible verses they use, but more with going back to a historical situation somewhere between the industrial revolution and the 1950’s.

I myself might be lucky. I grew up in a secular country with a liberal Catholicism on the brink of disappearing in atheism. Whatever patriarchal traditions there might be in older communities, I’ve never encountered them as something religious, more like something backwards and primitive. My parents were in the leadership of a pentecostal church (later moved on to the vineyard) and they raised me quite egalitarian, even if I never heard that word. Later I heard that some saw my father as the most woman-friendly preacher of Flemish evangelicalism, but I must say I’ve never seen that much of the ‘woman-unfriendliness’ when I was younger. I always was aware that some Christians teach that women should be obedient to men, or that they should not hold any position in a church or preach. But the pentecostals that I met did allow women to preach as far as I can remember. I can remember having women preacher on all youth camps, and also seeing those women preach .

(I seem to be the lucky man here, and that’s not only due to me being naieve and oblivious. Even my wife has encountered things that I would not believe existed in pentecostal circles, and the last years I’ve seen -thanks to the internet- that the discussion about women in church and their position, one I wasn’t aware of that still existed here is still alive, even among young people.)

I never realised it was that special to hear a woman preach. I don’t know much women preachers, but I’ve also haven’t met any women who aspired to preach. I’ve always had women preacher on the pentecostal events that I attended when I was younger, and never thought anything about it. And I must say that right now in our vineyard church in Antwerp, a lot of people (including me) get to preach, regardless of gender and age, in the spirit of John Wimbers ‘everybody gets to play’ philosophy… So my direct environment only makes it more natural to not see that much differences between the sexes in role.

It is quite logical that different people have different gifts. I know women who are good at speaking, and men who are good at cooking (like me), and this has influence on both roles in a church or enterprise, but also in a relationship. Actually the differences between 2 people of the same sex can be much bigger than between a man and a woman. Generalisations about ‘women are X’, or ‘men are Y’ have never worked for me and always made me feel somewhere uncomfortable and abnormal. Neither the Christian ‘wild at heart’ variety nor the secular ‘Venus and Mars’ ever made much sense for me, my wife, or our relationship. Every person is different, every combination of persons will be different too, and as someone who consistently fails to conform to the lowest denominator I always fail too at this kind of prescribed roles. And I could say the same for my wife, and trying to conform our marriage to some Driscollian theory would just completely destroy our relationship, that has always been very good.

Also, Silencing women is making half of the church passive, which sounds more like the work of Satan to me than like the work of God. I’ve been blessed too much by women who were ‘above me’ in church contexts to ever think it ‘wrong’.

In the end, I can only share what I know. If I am honest, I see no way at all in which the idea of ‘hierarchy in a marriage’ would even work. (I don’t see it working in the trinity either, like Roger Olson says here, pt 2 and pt 3, it’s not just heresy, but plain nonsense) I am a natural mutual person. Yes, there always is hierarchy in certain contexts: if I’m at work I have to listen to my boss, and I have to listen to a police man in a uniform. But I don’t have to listen to my boss outside my working hours, or to a policeman outside his time. Likewise there are moments when one person takes the lead in a marriage, depending on what person is closer to the job that needs to be done. So sometimes I will submit to my wife when things need to be done, sometimes it’s the other way around. But even then, most important decisions could never be made by one of us, but only together after some talking.

To conclude: I do not understand at all what hierarchy-obsessed ‘complementarism’ advocates, it goes counter to all I believe and what I see in the bible, and all that works in my life, and everything where I’ve seen the Spirit at work. I’ve seen it hurt women, and pushed unto me it would hurt me to. I’m not a top-leader, I’m a democratic person. I believe in carrying responsibility together in love.

That’s what I know. And that’s how I see it work. That’s how I see the spirit works. And I don’t want to need to defend myself against some backwards and to me utterly arbitrary and incoherent framework that cannot be mine but wants to push itself unto others as being ‘the biblical way’.

I just want to share that I love my marriage, in which we share our responsibilities in love. I want to testify about all the women who taught me in my life as a believer. Just like the first person to ever preach the resurrection was a woman (Mary of Magdala), who is therefor dubbed ‘apostle to the apostles’ by the church fathers and orthodox church, women are needed in the church as half of the imago dei, and I would not be what I am without them.

Shalom

Bram