Sunday, September 6, 2009

home from the office

I've been thinking a lot recently about these kinds of issues. It's something that I've wrestled with for a long time and have just in the past few years found a resting place. It also reminds me of some horrible, nearly unspeakable things I encountered in the homeschooling community.

I found a few sites encouraging this lifestyle called "Biblical patriarchy." Now, these aren't just your garden variety complimentarians, whose ranks I left for good during grad school. The "patriarchal" folks are really hard core about it. I guess I encountered some of this stuff when I was growing up, but reading it now, and seeing how many people actually subscribe to it, is shocking. Just to give you a good idea of what we're dealing with, here are some of the best quotes from Biblical patriarchy I could find on the web.

Here is the particular issue that is disturbing me today. Some guy named Philip Lancaster has written a book called Family Man, Family Leader in which he claims husband/fathers are to fulfill the offices of prophet, priest and king in their families. The reasoning for this appears to be the Biblical metaphor of the husband being the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church. Since Christ's work (offices) is as Prophet, Priest and King over the universe, it is paralleled in the family by fathers. As prophet, a father acts as "teacher and enforcer" over his children (and wife), as priest, a father has the duty of "worship leader and intercessor" over his children (and wife) and as king, he must be the "lord and master" of his home. Seriously - lord and master.

This is damaging theology, primarily since all of humanity was created to fulfill these roles on Earth. It's damaging because it suggests there is something funny, something not quite human about woman. It puts them in a place somewhere above children but not quite men. It says "hey, ladies, you don't qualify for plan A, but plan B is still pretty good."

Because of Jesus, men and women (and even children) can be prophets/prophetesses), priests/priestesses and kings/queens. If it does apply to parenting, surely it applies to both fathers and mothers.

I know these folks are only trying to do the right thing. I get that. They just don't seem to follow their ideas to their logical conclusions: that they are against the character of God and what we know about God from the Bible.

Yes, there are examples of patriarchy in the Bible. Lots of them. I believe God allowed this imperfect state to exist for the greater good of the Kingdom. This is where lots of study and prayer have taken me.

It's fine if you disagree. Really. Just make sure you're holding this with an open hand, along with all other divisive issues. There is a lot of Scripture we can be sure about. A lot of other things are not so easy, because we're fallen and we're so far from the original language and context of the Bible.

It is a lot easier when you don't feel like you need to have all the answers. Faith more than makes up the difference.


Love Always Annie said...

Thanks for sharing this Jonathan. It is beneficial particularly for a male to share his thoughts on the topic, and I'm right there with you on examining not only Christianity in this regard, but our own upbringing, which can be a painful process.

I love the part too about not following this theology to their logical conclusions. So true. The gospel is freedom, and this theology is not.

Kelse said...

Let me insert my favourite quote here...because I never tire of hearing or sharing it.

"Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there had never been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, who never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously, who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious.There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words of Jesus that there was anything ‘funny’ about woman's nature." - Dorothy L. Sayers

Thank you for not having the aforementioned 'uneasy male dignity' to defend with me, honey.

I hope as you continue to move through this issue you experience freedom.

jaigner said...

Kelse - Thank you for your words, sweetheart. And thank you for being fluid and loving and not requiring me to be something I'm not. I love you.

Annie - Yeah...(deep breath)...upbringing...gotta come to terms with it. It hurts sometimes. It's part of what makes these doctrines difficult. Thanks for your comment.

jaigner said...

By the way, if anyone is interested in further reading, I highly recommend "Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Understanding of Gender" by John G. Stackhouse Jr. It's an humble treatment of the issue and is faithful to the heart of the Gospel.

E. A. Harvey said...

I know I typed a long comment to this post, but I must not have hit the publish button. Of course it was witty and insightful and I can't remember any of it. :-)

Anyway, I initially tried to force myself into the mold of the good little stay-at-home wife and mother whose whole world revolves around her husband and kids because I thought that was the Christian thing a woman should do. (My hubby didn't expect that of me-- I expected it of myself.) Needless to say, I was miserable. It was so freeing when I discovered that I could use my gifts and talents both inside and outside the home and still be a godly woman. And when I knew I had that freedom, choosing to stay home with my kids was a blessing (most days) and not the exercise in resentment that it had been becoming.

I get frustrated with complimentarian pastors who say they believe men and women are equal in the sight of God yet then go on to bemoan the feminist movement, changing gender roles, and the blurring of masculinity and femininity as the impetus for our disintegrating social moral fibers. Do they not think that giving women the right to vote, equal pay for equal work, and equal standing before the law in terms of rights and property are good changes? Many of the leading feminists in the 19th century were devout Christians committed to making society better reflect the unbiased nature of God. It's sad that the church drug its feet so badly in this regard, and it's downright shameful that it continues to suppress woman and treat them as something less than human.

Dan Martin said...

Great post, Jonathan, and I hope you realize (I know you must) the significance of your wife's public affirmation of you in this! And Kelse, thanks for publicly sticking up for your husband. You guys are on the right track, it appears to me.

By far the scariest of these sorts of quotes that I have yet come across, was in a debate on abortion on an extreme pro-life website (and please don't misunderstand me as I do not support abortion). The topic had turned to the so-called rape/incest/health of the mother caveats to many folks' opinions on abortion. A (obviously male) poster quoted 1 Tim. 2:15 (she shall be saved in childbirth) and pontificated that a woman should consider it her highest, God-given duty to die, if necessary, in the act of bearing a child.

I'm not sure anything I have ever read has made my skin crawl quite so much as that did ... may God preserve us from Christians!

jaigner said...

Yuck, Dan. For a similar yet more humorous hermeneutic, check out my post "They'll Know We Are Christians...." and click on the spanking link.