A lack of time, an abundance of busyness. Those have been my reason and my excuse for not posting anything. I have not even logged on to approve comments much, never mind actually taking the time to write a real post. Now here I am proving that thing about motive and invention, about how time will make itself available if the desire is sufficiently compelling. One motivating anecdote was not enough. Two, however, when they work in tandem, that proved to be powerful enough to push me over the edge.
Sunday, wife and I were attending the requisite new member class at our adopted church of nearly one year. There are four classes, we caught two of the four a few months back, and needed to catch the other two in order to be presented with and sign the membership covenant.I’ve alluded to the fact that I am very pleased with this church in general, and specifically that nothing has activated my evangelical feminism klaxons yet. Sadly now that’s changed. But I was handed a second thing that I think will help me should I decide to finally break down and go meet our young excellent pastor and check his gut on red pill Christianity.
An even younger pastor led the small membership class of 4 couples. The church is smallish with 270 covenant members and maybe 500 attenders on a weekend with two services. I like it, I like the people, I like the closeness, and I like the fact that there is a covenant that is boiler plate Christianity. One of the things that stems from that is their take on the biblical roles of elders and deacons. Last Sunday we talked about elders, and there was one of the seven we presently have seated next to the young pastor leading us.
They pointed to scripture regarding elders. In 1 Peter 5 it says (ESV because the wording is illustrative for this anecdote):
1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.
The pastor then asked the elder to speak in his own words about his role as elder. So he did. Interestingly, earlier in the class I had written down a couple of things, I cannot even recall them now, but my notes were to remind me that I was extrapolating, or interpolating what the young pastor was saying and where it could lead. It was a stretch for me but I saw the shadow of evangelical feminism being cast faintly by his words and noted that. I am skeptical of my own thoughts own this because I can see evangelical feminism in the ingredients of a Kroger pre-packaged arugula salad. I did not imagine my vague suspicions would be confirmed as quickly as they were when the elder fixated on verse 3 and stated that as his most important focus.
3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
See where I’m headed?
The Christian man is taught that self effacement is a higher form of humility when in fact it is not a form of humility at all. It is nothing more than pandering to those who are to put something of themselves under your charge, trusting God, not the person, as having sanctified this hierarchy and therefore trusting God that we could discern and not be domineered even by a charlatan who would seek to do so. But Christians are embarrassed by anything that sets up authority if that authority seems to be given to reside in the male species. This is a universal condition, meaning in this case its not about gender, per se, because men and women in the church are subject to the elders in some way.
So, the Christian man is ashamed of his authority, apologizing in advance by saying some words that REALLY mean…. “the bible says the elder has some authority but what it really means is we are here to serve you, make your life better, protect you, and just be great guys to have around because we are so loving and so humble and we stand always ready to carry your water”. After the words he said, which were not what quoted but what I quOted was what he meant, they put the cap back on the bottle of authority and shelved it by adding “now, can you see how a man leading like that is an easy man to follow?”
I thought they’d said enough. They must have felt I needed more confirmation and the segue that came next (is that redundant?) was so predictable as to be unbelievabke when it happened.
The young pastor said, “now turning to Ephesians 5 we can see another illustration of what the authority of elders means and doesn’t mean”. We read about mutual submission. Then we held hands, sang Kumbaya, but no one intentioned Gaia….thankfully.
I wanted to write it up and post it Sunday evening. By the time I sat to do so, the drive to write it had diminished so I tossed the notes and put it from my mind. Then, yesterday I received this in an email from Family Life. Barbara Rainy is writing about how Candice Cameron ignited a firestorm by publicly proclaiming that she submits to her husband.
The sister of Kirk Cameron of Fireproof fame has staked out a position on submission, and the Christian marriage community rushes to support her. I sometimes imagine this Christian community as if they were all on one big ship. Things like this controversy stirred by sister Cameron’s statement and the innate goodness of her adherence to a biblical marriage model, o brother Cameron’s role in Fireproof and the innate goodness of a movie that seeks to teach couples to stick it out through hard times, this ship bound community would certainly capsize because they rush headlong and with no depth of analysis, from side to side chasing the latest Christian bumper sticker slogan never taking a moment to marinate in the information and see what was really said or done, in this case, by the siblings Cameron in their respective venues. This Christian community rushes from boycott of Home depot to Chick-Fil-A support day, to “telling all their friends” about the latest movie that, hey, did you know, its a Christian movie made by a church? If its about abortion or gay marriage, they rush to out the offender and support those with apparent similar beliefs to their own, with nothing but the headline even having been made known to them.
So it is with Candice and her gutsy move. And it will not by just Family Life heralding Ms. Cameron’s courage in the face of the hostile culture, it will be all the major marriage ministries, it will be spoken from pulpits, it will occupy breathless conversations and women lunching at sidewalk cafe tables ask one another, “have you heard what Candice Cameron did? I just love her, we so need more young women with that kind of courage.”
I have this tendency to immediately convert things like what Ms Cameron said into what I believe most Christian women and many Christian men actually hear. The secret formula for making this conversion resides in the anecdote above and the elder’s instant translation of his role in to that of one that is such a humble servant that anyone can easily fall under that sort of authority. Its easy peasy dontcha know. Ms. Cameron herself followed the version of the formula for what women say. Its a different formula because she originates the thoughts and the formula converts them into something that will make the women listening have an easier time solving for the solution to the calculation, and the solution, see, is known before any variables are even plugged in. Ms. Cameron knew that her being a champion of submission would call attention to her from the secular media. That knowledge was cognitive. But she also knew, like a dog knows you are afraid, how to preempt any negative attention she would get from the sisterhood of the traveling evangelical feminism. In fact, she instinctively knows that she can make a huge positive for herself. While some secular types snipe, the Christians will hear her gutsy words and sassy ‘tude and know that its even more cool to be a Christian gal than they thought.
As if on cue Barbara Rainy jumps in with both feet.
We should not be surprised when a fire starts from a bed of coals. And in our culture, a firestorm erupts whenever a Bible-believing Christian talks about roles in marriage.
. The fire theme makes things like Fireproof and this issue so exciting. And a firestorm of angry secularism needs to be met head on with a strident defense of God’s order for marriage and the plain spoken realities of submission. (Flash poll: Are you like me in that even now I am wrestling with myself about the need to make sure I disclaim the men who rule with fist and blood) But its not the secular attacks I am most concerned with. Its the guys who led our membership class, and its the people at all of the nationally prominent ministries that allege to support marriage. Like Rainy. I can’t, based on what I have read thus far, hold Candice Cameron to account for anything, because although she claims she is a feisty one, and that submission didnt come naturally, and she fell into making her own disclaimer:
Before the hair on your neck stands up straight, don’t think for a second that I get walked all over. I don’t. I have always firmly voiced my opinion, but when it comes down to us ultimately not agreeing on something, I submit to his leadership. That decision to submit originally had nothing to do with my Christian faith, because it wasn’t strong at the time. But once I started understanding marriage from a biblical perspective it all made sense. I now recognize that I do all things in my marriage for the Lord. He is my ultimate priority, and I honor God when I honor my husband, whether or not Val deserves my honor and respect at the time.”
I simply cannot find an abundance of fault with what she said. That she disclaims blind obedience, in a way, is not her fault. She has heard, her whole life, from the pulpit, what submission IS NOT. I have not once attended a sermon on the topic that was not 90% disclaimer, 9% servant hood, and 0.9% other stuff, and maybe 0.1% on submission.
I am guessing here, and I guess that even Rainy was made uncomfortable by Cameron’s simplicity. Because Rainy says that what Cameron did is not possible.
Defining biblical submission cannot be done in a single
Odd that Cameron just described it, as well as her simple process of finding peace in it. What Cameron did not say was anything remotely about how IF her husband is doing xyz, then “who wouldn’t want to follow such a man?”
She hits the high points of cliche.
Do I believe in the concept of submission? Yes, in the context of the entire Bible. We humans long for clear black-and-white rules and definitions because they are so much easier to follow than the mysterious nuances of God’s eternal and living Word.
Its just too complex to be encapsulated in a couple of books in a couple of chapters. Its got to be the whole context of the bible…..whatever that even means. Ironically its that same reference to the whole bible in context from which people come up with all manner of silliness, like “anything goes because God is about love”. Gay marriage, divorce, serial monogamy, promiscuity, all manner of evil can be explained away saying God is love and that is the context of the bible.
i wonder, though, if Dennis gets to say that he agrees he must love her as Christ the church.,……but only as it fits into the whole context of the bible. She talks about how she submits.
Do I submit to my husband and follow him? Yes. I respect him and his responsibility before God Almighty for our marriage and my wellbeing. I do it “as unto the Lord,” for that is the greater context for my life [ ]
Only rarely have we disagreed on decisions or directions. In those times I have chosen to trust the Spirit of God who lives within my husband—that it is He who is leading, not my husband the man. Trusting God’s sovereignty over all is liberating. God is fully capable of correcting a man whose heart seeks to please his Creator.
Catch that? She submits because she respects that he is doing work for the Lord, and she submits to the Lord, therefore she submits to Dennis. I realize that she gets a B on technicals, but remember that translation formula I mentioned above? Note that when I read that she submits as unto the Lord I’m supposed to find that accurate. But just after she is inferring that Dennis sometimes makes these bad decisions that she is wise enough to know are bad, but she trusts God to correct Dennis. Like the standard evangelical feminist line, if the man is washing her feet, he is a true servant leader and worthy of following. God will put the man Back. In. Submission. To
Finally, to confirm my suspicion that she was made uncomforatble by Camerons simplicity, Rainy adds, :
Ultimately I believe we must be careful about speaking our mind in public debates like this. We do not live with an awareness of One who hears every spoken word, who understands the motives of our hearts, who will ask us to answer to Him one day. I do not want to be rebuked as God rebuked Job when He said, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?”
There it is. All buttoned up, backed with scripture, and freeing indeed. Freeing, from any responsibility to her husband that requires her to ever TRULY swallow her own opinion.