Some personal reflection mixed with commentary about a sermon I sat through last weekend.
Back in May of last year I wrote “Women Stop Submitting”, an entry about Dr. Russell Moore and his notion that the problem in the church, and our take on Ephesians 5, is that women are submitting to all men, not just their husbands.
Today, I returned to the same church I visited last week, and as providence would have it, Mr. Moore was there in the flesh as a guest speaker. His message? The same one I found on his blog, parsed and posted about as I mentioned above. I’d use the expression that this was kind of manna for the blog, but it set in motion a bad sequence of events. It made the day a bad day. It put me on my heels.
We have a comprehensive problem, and we have a comprehension problem. At the very very least, these messages are not unequivocal. People hear different things. I listen with the bias of a red pill Christian man. A middle aged wife, for example, listens with not so much a bias, but an innocent expectation that something that doesn’t overtly seem harmful is not therefore intended for anything but good, nor is it potentially heard in any way that could have ill effect. On that we would agree, it is intended for good. Dr. Moore is very charming and a gifted orator. He may be an interesting man to sit and talk to about many things. He would likely, however, be a supremely frustrating man to discuss this topic with; he has been marinating in (t)his message so long it is to the core. We know that it is exceedingly rare when that outlook changes and is usually only possible after presented with very personal disaster in the person’s own marriage or in the marriage of someone very close. In other words, the numbers and the big picture are somehow not compelling.
I have been sincerely contemplative about this lately, more so than ever, in the sense that I ask myself am I allowing my obsession with these wrong teachings to skew my perspective similarly to how I accuse the church of allowing its obsession with abortion, gay marriage, and a few “man sins” to skew its perspective. I’ve prayed about this. Ive concluded that indeed my perspective has been skewed similarly. Now I have to decide what to do about it.
Does this epiphany change my opinion about the issues? Absolutely not. But it necessarily changes my resource allocation, the resource being namely…..me. Blogging, reading for the purpose of blogging, and reading blogs with the intent of making comments are all fine things in more moderation. I will try to own that.
It changes nothing about Mr. Moore and his misguided focus.
Mr. Moore’s point with his provocative blog entry title is that the problem is not that women are not in submission, the problem is that they are in submission to all men. He then explains that women are, “even in the church” filling rolls and posturing themselves according to widespread male expectations based on widespread wrong teaching of Ephesians 5. He asserts that it is the norm, and a growing problem, that the church is placing women in submission to all men. He goes on to explain that this means the women are constantly trying to meet expectations of men, expectations put on them through advertising in the secular realm, and again, false teaching in the Christian realm. He “calls out” the women telling them to stop doing this; this is his accountability lesson to women.
On his blog he has another post where he further confuses his already mixed message by explaining why women should not be in church leadership. It leaves the reader to make sense of the melange of opinions.
For men, he has a word. He starts with an anecdote about a man who came to see him in his office claiming discontentment at home due to his wife being lazy. The man explains that he is in graduate school (he never says what the field of study is) and that the woman is working to support them meanwhile. The man says his wife is depressed and cries weekly as she returns to work because she wants to stop working and have kids. The man says he tells her that they are on the agreed plan, once he finishes he will be the one to work.
I understand the opinions on that will be mixed. I hope that I can convey what Dr. Moore said to the man. When the man asked him what he should do, Moore said he asked if the guy needed him to show him with modeling clay (exact example). He told the guy he needed to lead, and if that meant he go to work and let her stay home its his place to see to it that her needs are met and they he is spiritually nourishing her dreams. The gist was simple, if mamma ain’t happy…..like that.
He then launched into a rant about men and “digital prostitutes”, and men telling women “go get me some chips”. People laughed as he explained…”that’s not what servant leadership is all about”. He used Jesus washing feet as the first example, then segued to Peter telling Jesus they would not allow Jesus to be crucified, that they would fight to defend him. Then he said, Jesus did none of this using his position of power, rather he lead as a servant leader.
I guess he missed “Get behind me satan”. Again, I was shocked.
As he summed up and then prayed, his admonishment to men was about porn, abuse, and cheating. He then admonished the women to “stop submitting other men” which as he put it was the source of female fornication and promiscuous behavior in general. Get that? Men are LEADING women into promiscuity, and into low self image. He referenced the Ad executives specifically, clearly never opening a woman’s magazine and reading its masthead to see the management hierarchy. (He should read Serial monogamy, hypergamy is polygamy” over at Society of Phineas. )
Thundering standing ovation…..a few thousand folks on their feet.
But what happened next really taught me more than all of the above. My wife told me she didn’t hear what I did. I could easily go down a path of criticism of my wife, and initially I did, but that path is neither fruitful, nor is it fair or correct. I realized again how insidious this meme is, that her and I could have such a very divergent recollection of what points were made. When she told me what she heard, amazingly it was all pretty sound exposition. So as to not belabor that, I concluded that my expectation was realized in the message, and I do not reduce my skepticism one iota, but that lots of people hear very different things. That is good and its bad. Its good in the case of my wife and those who may be of similar mind. But its bad that I am certain that there were men and women there getting just another male supplication message. Why am I certain? Because the big picture bears it out.
This phenomenon where pastors preach a form of truth, people hear something truth-ish, and whole groups of people may well be sincere believers but are left dangerously deceived and manipulated by minions, lying spirits, emotions, whatever can be seen from prosperity preaching, hyper charismatic Benny Hinn type stuff, liberal feel good pop psych type preaching, and this, the guise of hard core Christian conservatism serving a female imperative (not the coined term). We were told about this, about sheep’s clothing and false teachers and forms of knowledge and all manner of confusion. Its not surprising. There is a lot to know, isn’t there?
We are all subject to our vulnerability to manipulation. Dogged determination to stamp out false teaching on marriage and divorce can cloud the mind and harden the heart if allowed. That doesn’t change what happened. It hopefully changes my perspective a little though so I don’t bring problems that I do not have into my life just because I feel they are very real and widespread problems.
[ETA: I had intended to copy some comments here that were made on Moore’s blog. These comments support my my take on how the message was likely heard. To be clear, though he mentions a woman’s submission to her one husband as crucial, it is so de-emphasized and papered over with other things that stir indignation in the women, you can see here that they react viscerally in agreement to that part about the men they DON’T have to submit to.]
A mixture of male and female comments about the message:
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. I am sending this on to all of my friends.
I second your gratitude. Dr. Moore, thank you so much for writing this. I found your words to be so healing and helpful in directing us toward God’s Word regarding submission. Through this post, the Lord has healed some of my past injuries and has helped me to more clearly discern ways in which I’m sojourning in this world and reflecting the Gospel of Christ through my marriage. I too shared this post with single and married ladies I’m currently ministering to. Dr. Moore, may His grace and peace abound to you, your family, and your church! …and to all of you reading, I pray your hearts be filled with anticipation and worship and thanksgiving for the manifold forgiveness we have been given in Christ Jesus, as we His Bride prepare to celebrate Immanuel, God with us!
I find no fault in your assessment or argument. The difficulty, as I see it in addition is that not only are we women misguided in our understanding of submission, we are also lacking strong, godly men (husbands) to submit to
Thanks for reminding us of the biblical standard and not the world’s in raising/encouraging young women for the gospel.
The submission of a wife to her own husband would be no problem at all if men would obey Eph. 5:25 & 31
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it;”
Good article. I think we too often read Eph 5:22 and forget 5:21,22-33. Indeed, there is more said about husbands loving and sacrificing for their wives–giving up their desires in favor of their wife–than there is about wives submitting to their husbands. Personally, I think if husbands did a lot more of the “giving up” and “sacrificing” we’d have a lot less issues with the “wives submit” part.
Why do we always forget the most important part of this section of scripture? Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church. If we as men did this, then Hollywood and Madison Avene would not use sex for financial gain; because it would be looked upon with utter disgust. Instead, because we as men do not do our part, it creates the license for the world to do as they wish.
Very well articulated! The Church has really messed up on this issue in the recent and historical past. Sadly, submission has often been a club used by males to control females and the backlash has alienated many modern women to the truth of Scripture. (The abuses of power on this issue have resulted in wrong conclusions like: submission is hurting women and is wrong… Paul really was wrong when he wrote this… this could not be inspired by God… is the Bible all the inspired word of God?)
I have often observed over the years that many Christian women who have been manipulated by spouses and the body of Christ in the name of submission have become disheartened after many years, (left their husbands in frustration) and become disillusioned with Christianity
Please will someone hold the men accountable for their attitudes, their behaviors, their domination and control?
No wonder women fight back.
Well dangit. I got all excited about this post and read line by line with a thrill in my heart.
And then I got to the save-yourself-for-submission-to-your-husband part. This is still a patriarchal lens over the beauty of mutuality and otherliness that husbands and wives are commended in scripture.
Telling women to submit to their husbands is to tell a woman to detach from her personal sovereignty and give responsibility for her life to another. This is what we do with our children. And our pets. Women are not children nor pets.
Lets give up a round of applause for Dave who actually brought something back to the dialog. There were a handful of posts challenging the writer, but this one gets my “post of the blog” award.
Is it really empowerment to have more and more women economically at the mercy of men who freely abandon them and their children, often with little legal recourse?
When then is it that women are more likely to divorce there husbands than vice versa? (The research seems to suggest that one of the causes is that family courts and child support laws favor women rather than the reverse).