how to justify embarrassing bible verses – part 3

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So, why did the Bible use submission for women only? It didn’t. If one reads closely it says two things that we’ve entirely ignored.

First, it commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ loved the church by working tirelessly for us, day and night, for years. All of his actions, full-time, we’re in the service of the church. He was, essentially, a willing slave. And, when the church completely rejected him, he decided it was better to face torture and execution than be without us. Ordering men to treat their wives this way is simply incompatible with a chauvinistic view of marriage.

Second, and similarly, the Bible claims that anyone who is to be a leader, is to be slave of all. So, any intimation that men are to be leaders of their wives is an intimation that men are to be the slaves of their wives.

I know people keep trying to get chauvinism from the Bible. I know many do it for self gain. But this is simply not what the text says. And, personally, I delight in pointing it out to them. In any case, I hope that strikes you as more reasonable than the “Biblical” view of marriage you’ve had quoted at you.

Last, I’d like to add that, if I’m right, there is a transcendental truth to the claim that these chauvinists are wrong. It isn’t (again, if my religion is right) simply be that they contradict the current cultural value of equality. It would be that they are fundamentally wrong. In fact, it is largely because I know that they are fundamentally wrong that I can’t accept atheism.

My best apologist blogging buddy Fide Dubitandum (which Google tells me means ‘trustworthy’ in English) provided this explanation for Bible verses calling on women to submit to their husbands. It got me thinking about how people interpret the Bible … yet again.

Fide and his blogging buddies all believe in a benevolent and loving god. They seem to be reasonable people with normally developed senses of empathy and the standard cultural indoctrination of our times that demands equal treatment for all.  They start from their premise of a good and loving god, and apply their rose-tinted view to all Bible passages they come across.

Let’s look at one of the submission passages in more detail:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)

While most people who aren’t indoctrinated by Christianity shudder when reading these verses, seeing instructions for damaging inequality that are rooted in patriarchal culture and all to often lead to repression and abuse, nice Christians only see that if the man is to love to his wife as himself, no harm can befall the wife as a result of the instruction.

However, let’s be clear about what we expect from equality. My best blogging buddy, Victoria Neuronotes, has a very handy exercise to help those blinkered people see these instructions from a fresh equality perspective.

Husbands, submit yourselves to your own wives as you do to the Lord. For the wife is the head of the husband as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also husbands should submit to their wives in everything.

Wives, love your husbands, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for him to make him holy, cleansing him by the washing with water through the word, and to present him to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, wives ought to love their husbands as their own bodies. She who loves her husband loves herself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a woman will leave her mother and father and be united to her husband, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love her husband as she loves herself, and the husband must respect his wife. (Ephesians 5:22-33)

Suddenly, I can see sense in the message. It reflects the natural balance in heterosexual relationships and I can genuinely understand how in this form it protects our husbands and provides them with the equal, loving and supportive relationship they deserve. But then my rose-tinted glasses are those of a powerful woman.

 

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