Sunday, April 22, 2012

An Egalitarian Re-Learns Submission

My journey from complementarianism to egalitarianism began during my sophomore year of college.  It was a course called "Theology and Philosophy of Women in Ministry", taught by one of my favorite professors.  This professor pretty much had us throw out everything we thought we knew about women in the church and start fresh.  We studied women's roles throughout church history, were appropriately appalled by how the reformers viewed women (Martin Luther: "Women...have but small and narrow chests, and broad hips, to the end that they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children."), and then had to write position paper after position paper detailing our new understanding of Scripture's take on gender roles.   

Just about all of us went into that class as complementarians, the stance that our school and its professors were all required to hold.  Most students emerged dazed, but still complementarian.  I, along with several other women in my major, wanted to further explore many of the issues we had touched on in that whirlwind semester.  I spent the next several years delving into this topic on my own, with friends and professors, and in class, and finally emerged as a true egalitarian during my senior year of college.

Jason and I, dating in 2007.
My rebirth as an egalitarian has been mostly wonderful.  I have lots of complementarian friends, and enjoy civilly discussing the issue when it comes up (I'm not going to lie, though--I am beyond grateful that my husband is an egalitarian!).  However, in the last few weeks, I've realized something rather...disconcerting.  In my desire to be a GOOD egalitarian, I have discarded submission.

In reading through Ephesians, my eyes glaze over a little at chapter 5.

When someone at church mentions the "s" word, I tune them out.

In discussions about marital roles, I am all "kephale means source" and "MUTUALITY!!!"

"Submission" is so loaded with hierarchical undertones and images of denim-jumpers-of-suppression that I want to extricate it from my theological vocabulary.  But by doing that, I miss out on the opportunity to better serve those around me--especially my husband.  Submission, that act of honoring someone else's needs and desires above my own, is a gift.  One that I don't want to give the complementarians exclusive rights to.

Jason and I have striven for equality in our marriage.  And we've found it, striking an amazing balance of home/work/child responsibilities, at least for this season of life.  Yet, I want to shake that up a little by being a better servant to my husband by submitting (*gulp*, yep, still a scary word) my desires to his.  Not because he's the boss, but because that's what Jesus would do.  I want my marital goal of "equality" to be superseded by "servanthood."

I want to take back submission, because it's Christ-like (Philippians 2), not complementarian.

Disclaimer for the sake of transparency:  While I wrote this blog post, Jason spent about 30 minutes RUBBING MY FEET.  Just sitting on the floor near me, watching his show and giving me a foot rub while I wrote about wanting to serve him better.  And he offered to do it!   I am clearly already waaaay behind in both the submission and awesome spouse departments. 

9 comments:

  1. GREAT post. SO sad that I missed out on the opportunity to take that class!

    For myself, I only began to be able to hear the word "submission" and not shudder once I recognized that I submit to God, and I consider it a good thing. And I submit to my teachers, and my supervisors, and my mentors...so why does it become so difficult when it comes the person that I care about so much that I choose to marry them? And I realized that my resistance is rooted in pride and fear more than anything else.

    That said, it still makes me feel like a declawed cat. I may not do as much damage as I once did, but there's still plenty of fight left!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, Andrea. I think that certain more extreme facets of the church have turned submission into something that God did not intend it to mean. The fact that I can believe in equal roles and yet choose to submit (as a Christian rather than exclusively as a woman) is a concept I am still trying hard to put into practice.

      And...there's nothing wrong with a little fight. ;)

      Delete
  2. I hated that class :) I think we were in it together? Right? Oi! I didn't hate it because of the content, but because of the constant opinion swapping. :) That was hard for me. Excited to see you in a bit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We did have it together. I think I met you there? We sat next to each other!

      It was a very emotionally draining class, to be sure. I sometimes wanted to pull my hair out afterwards, or go find a dark corner and cry. See you soonish!

      Delete
  3. My husband and I have an egalitarian relationship as we consider ourselves Christians and feminists. We've found it be more difficult at times than what we perceive our complementarian friends and family to experience given that there isn't a set structure, form, and protocol for living out your love for one another. When we have to make a decision worth really discussing and praying about, we aren't expecting the man to be the tiebreaker for final decision-maker. We believe that it may make it harder in the short-run, but ultimately more fulfilling and mutually self-sacrificing for the marriage as a whole.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree! I have also realized that it seems more difficult to find egalitarian marriage books--probably because there is no "one size fits all" egalitarian marriage. Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
    2. I completely agree. We found it somewhat isolating and lonely when preparing for marriage and reading thinly-veiled complementarian books like Sacred Marriage (which I loved) and obviously complementarian books like Love & Respect. If you ever write a book on it, let me know because I'll read it!!

      Delete
  4. I found this by following links from links through your inamirrordimly.com guest post. Just a comment on submission. Women so often hate that word. It is so misused in and out of church. The whole section in Ephesians starts with each submitting to one another, what you have described as being Christ-like, because it is! Jesus taught that we are to esteem others more highly than ourselves, but that is so little emphasized in the church. Heck, I don't think it is even spoken about in the church. Perhaps that is one reason the 'church' is no different than the 'world'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree! I wish pastors, teachers, and Christians in general would more frequently read all of Ephesians 5 together, in context.

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...