Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Feminism Re-Revisited

In the comments below, my wife suggested in response to tomtastic (who, to those who don't know him, was joking in that last bit) I write a new post. What better way to model a non-patriarchal household of complementarian harmony than to heed her suggestion?

Well tomtastic, in the Ephesians passage you only quoted the three verses of instructions to the wives. The next eight verses cover instructions to husbands, which are so extraordinarily demanding that the passage, read in context, stands sharply opposed to the classic patriarchal milieu in which it was written.

25 "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..."

No such demand is made of the wives. Only one sex in this passage gets told to be willing to be tortured and killed for the other one, and it's not the females. The point is even restated in 5:33, where men again are told to love, and women only to respect. The feminist retorts, "Ahh, see, women aren't even deemed capable of love in the Bible!" This feminist playfully responds, "Perhaps Paul assumed their ability, but knew the men needed the extra instruction."

It is helpful in these cases I think to remember that the expression "take offense" requires a deliberate action on behalf of the offended party, an action which is not required. When not seeking to be offended by Ephesians 5, there is room to let the dominant verse hit you right between the eyes, which I think is

21 "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ."

Structure is not evil - abuse of structure is. Christianity, in my view, seeks to redeem structures but not to destroy them. The point made below about the cross deconstructing all "archy" means (if it's correct) that in light of the Master of the Universe (not that one) becoming a foot-washer, "position" should, at least for a Christian, no longer be in such unquestionable demand. If anything, position means more responsibility and stricter judgment, and so why would someone seek it out for its own sake? For example, most great leaders of the early church actively sought to flee public positions of leadership. Which is why I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Mainline Protestant bureaucrats today campaign Washington-style to become captains of their sinking ships. (No, I'm not dismissing all leadership attained in this fashion, just making a Socratic point which can I'm sure be given adequate response... or not.)

The whole "I want power too" perspective on these matters, according to which the controversial passages under discussion are usually attacked, and according to which the ordination-wars are usually carried out, therefore seems to me deeply un-Christian.

Unless of course Jesus was wrong, in which case I retract my point entirely.