The Female Gaze: No One Wins When Men and Women Play for Power

Each week in The Female Gaze, Faith Newport engages the trends, events, and issues that affect women—and the men who care about them.

If there’s one thing I’m really tired of in Christian culture, it’s the seemingly constant grab for power. Some days, I see it almost everywhere I look. The people who spend thousands of dollars trying to boycott one law or another—or to get new laws on the books prohibiting this or that. The frenzied voices of our “culture wars” as everyone tries to out-shout and out-Conservative everyone else in the name of vaguely defined “traditional” values. Or the constant tug-of-war between men insistent that women should bow to them, and the women who believe that they don’t have to bow to anyone.

It’s all about power. It’s all about who’s in control, who wins.

When that happens, the Church loses—simply because we stop looking like the Person we claim to follow. That Person didn’t try to keep His power and didn’t fight to be powerful. Instead, He gave it up willingly, and so we call Him our Servant King. He washed feet in the name of love. Meanwhile, we’re lobbing enough veiled insults at each other to warrant a mouth washing.

As a woman, I wonder how to respond to these very public power struggles, especially those between men and women in the Church. Does it ruffle my feathers when Jared Wilson quotes Doug Wilson (no relation, by the way) talking about how “men dream of being rapists” and blaming it on women failing to submit, both relationally and sexually? Absolutely. Does it feel like he’s trying to steal my power over even my own body while also insulting men everywhere in the process? Yes, it does.

But, in the name of Christ, I can give up power. By the grace of Christ, I can work toward no longer needing to claim it.

The truth is, none of us as Christians are supposed to have any power.

“Therefore, submit to one another.”

—Ephesians 5:21

The Bible talks a lot about this. Wives, submit to your husbands. Husbands, submit to your wives. Everybody submit to everybody else, like the big family we’re supposed to be. Stop trying to take, and start finding out how to give. That’s a pretty essential part of the spirituality Jesus practiced—doing unto others and putting yourself last so that everyone gets what they need because everyone is looking after everyone else. That’s why we talk about not being “stumbling blocks,” putting obstacles in the way of others’ faith when our consciences disagree. Because part of being Christian is caring more about others being alright than me being right.

As a couple becomes increasingly Christ-centered in their marriage, labels like “complementarian” or “egalitarian” are no longer the focus. Because, no matter what the case, both spouses will be striving to act like Jesus. We’ll carry each other’s burdens, care about what the other person needs, and give up our power for the other. There’s no room in that for power struggles or individual control.

That kind of grace can even empower us to give of ourselves when the other person is trying to take and when they are grasping for power. It also gives us strength to be assertive in the face of abusive power, because we are confident in the knowledge of His authority rather than trying to defend our own. We can uncurl our fingers, lower our fists, and stand as equals to turn the other cheek.

When all of us—men and women alike—learn to let go of our need for power, we find the freedom to be who we were created to be in Christ. We’re able to look a little more like Him and find our own opportunities to wash the feet of people we love.

About Faith Newport

Faith Newport writes, knits, drinks lattes, and sings in the shower in a small Midwestern town. She lives with two cats, too many books, and her very patient husband. Follow her on Twitter @knittybarista.

  • Monica

    You’re right. We shouldn’t be fighting for power, especially in marriage. Because God made it clear by design and by His word that male leadership is the authority structure in marriage and the church. Certainly sinful humans have often distorted and abused the actual implementation of this since Eden, and what that looks like in my marriage will look quite different from another couple’s. I have struggled with this doctrine for 20 years because I don’t naturally like it, but I am only more convinced each passing year of its truth. We bring honor to God when we obey Him with joy even when we don’t like or understand all the reasons behind His commands. I pray that God will give us gracious attitudes and wise words as we discuss this and all other topics. The answer is not to simply never discuss them publicly.

  • Jodi Furno

    The love you describe here is the kind the world so desperately needs. As we love like this others will drawn to Christ. We can simply walk in love at home and everywhere we go throughout the day, considering others as needs as important as our own by the power of God’s grace in us. Challenging yet infinitely rewarding-the work of a lifetime… Thank you for sharing a well-thought out and much-needed principle. Excellent work!
    _


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