Sunday, April 04, 2010

Woman this is war

Jocelyn Andersen is releasing a new book this year called "Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery, & the Evangelical Caste System."

Her blog subtitle says,
    The false doctrine of female subordination to male authority lies at the very root of domestic abuse and domestic violence among professing Christians. The premise is despotic and abusive in and of itself. Domestic Violence among Christians will never be eradicated until gender equality is acknowledged and practically implemented.
I have said things like this, and there are so many that argue that this cannot be true. It goes like this.

1. Non-Christian men abuse their wives.
2. Women, both Christian and non-Christian, abuse their husbands.
Therefore, there can be no connection between domestic abuse and Christian teaching.

To #1, I would say that this false Christian doctrine has its origins in the same sexism that drives the domination of women by non-Christian men. The teaching of male dominance within Christianity has its counterpart outside of Christianity.

To #2, I would say that there are many ways that women and men can be abusive to each other. (If this happens, it is better for the couple separate. However, the welfare of the children must be taken into consideration.) I do believe, however, that there are many unique ways that the teaching of male authority causes serious abuse and distress, and there are ways that it intensifies the naturally abusive nature of any relationship gone bad.

The testimony of many other women indicates to me that there is a deep and unique way that the teaching that God created women to be under the authority of their husband damages women. A woman who is being abused by her husband has the usual stress - increased vulnerability to ill health, both physical and mental. She also is taught that God has intended this for her. The church is a powerful community for women in this situation, and an abused woman may feel an increased need to belong, as well as an increased sense of alienation and isolation. By appealing to the authority of God, those who teach male authority, intensify the already miserable condition of someone who is being abused.

The teaching of male authority -

gives the abuser the notion that he is entitled to be obeyed and submitted to
gives the abuser the expectation that he has the right to get his way
gives the abuser justification for abusing someone who will not obey him
gives the abuser the sense that men and women are so different that a feeling of common humanity between them is eradicated and there is no empathy

The teaching of male authority -

gives the abused the sense that it is her fault if she is abused
gives the abused feelings of shame for being in this situation
gives the abused no hope since divorce is denied and separation with a view to reconciliation is dangerous
gives the abused the sense that this is God's best for women

To sum it up, let me quote from A wife's submission,
    The burden was so heavy, I could see no way out of it but my death. I wanted to die: my frame of mind was such that I would have embraced cancer or something as an escape hatch from God to bring me relief.
My thoughts exactly. I often used to think of what a relief it would be to die of cancer. How many men sit in church and think of how much more pleasant it would be to die of cancer than be a Christian male? Share my thought of 30 years of church attendance just for a moment.

Thank goodness - tomorrow when I go to church, I will spend more time picking the lint (or white dog hairs) off my Easter jacket than I will wishing I would die of cancer. I will know the delightful freedom of being like a man, free to worry about my finances, my job, my children, etc. etc. but I won't have to sit and think that I would rather die of cancer than continue to live the kind of life God intended for me because I am a woman.


Donald Johnson said...

I disagree with the IDEA of gender roles, beyond the basic physical constraints, which I see as God-given and good. And this is because roles are confining, while Christ is liberating, except to sin. So the basic non-egal claim is that a woman acting outside of her supposed role is a sin. I think it is a sin to teach such ideas.

Kristen said...

I feel for you, Suzanne. And I think it does no good for the patriarchalists to insist that it's ok for them to have power and privilege as long as they don't abuse it. Because there are always going to be those who will abuse it anyway, and this doctrine teaches them that they HAVE the privilege, that it is their birthright-- so there is no one to "police" them but themselves.

It makes no more sense to teach this than it makes to teach that slavery is of God, but masters must be kind, or that rule by kings and lords is of God, but that they must be benevolent kings and lords.

Institutions and structures of power, of one human over another, are not of the kingdom of God, but of the kingdom of man. Jesus taught us a better way, but so many of us insist on dragging our own kingdoms into his and making our own little fiefdoms there.

believer333 said...

Many many women can empathize with what you shared Suzanne. And thank you for sharing it.

Because of the abuse I suffered as a result of the teachings of male dominance, I was ready and willing to take my own life at a young age, early 20's. But God found me and drew me to Himself in a miraculous way. It is important that women who know better speak up for those who don't. Your blog is greatly appreciated for all the testimony and teachings you bring to the world.