CTBHHM: Surrendering Your Autonomy to Another

by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love Joy Feminism

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 136—37

Sometimes Debi misinterprets Bible passages, and badly. More often, though, she simply adds things, brazenly, and without even offering any of her twisted scriptures to back them up. This wouldn’t be such a problem except that evangelicals and fundamentalists make a big deal of adhering to the Bible and the Bible alone, condemning mainline Christians for adding to the Bible.

God created Adam, and commissioned him to take the position of leadership. Since then, every son of Adam has received the same mandate. Man was created to rule. It is his nature. But the only place most men will rule is their own little kingdom called home. At the least, every man’s destiny is to be the leader of his household. To deny him this birthright is contrary to his nature and God’s will.

Okay, so, the thing is, I just reread the first chapters of Genesis. This idea that man was created to rule, and that that’s in his nature? Yeah, that’s not there. Look, I’m not denying that there is plenty of sexism in the Bible. There absolutely is. But I have too much respect for reality to tolerate Debi’s continually ascribing things to the Bible that simple aren’t there, anywhere. Since Debi claims that man was “created” to rule, let’s look at the first three chapters of Genesis. 

  • The commonly quoted “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over . . . every living thing that moves” command is explicitly given to both man and woman.
  • When God places Adam in the garden, he commands him “to tend it and keep it,” not to rule.
  • When Adam and Eve are cursed after the fall (i.e., this is not part of their created nature), Eve is told that her husband “will rule over” her. This is a curse upon Eve; there is no command to Adam.

I may be wrong, but I honestly don’t think there is anything whatsoever in the Bible saying that God created man “to rule.” And in my time as an evangelical I read through the Bible three times and memorized large passages of it. I think pointing this out is incredibly important, especially as those women who listen to Debi believe her teaching is rooted in the Bible.

And of course, as she offers reasons why wives should reverence their husbands, Debi continues to be extrabiblical.

When a man is not in command of his little kingdom and is not shown the deference and reverence that goes with that position, his kingdom will not be ruled correctly, and the subjects of that kingdom will not experience the benevolence of a king who truly loves and cherishes them. When you neglect to reverence your husband, you are taking something precious away from yourself, your children, and your husband.

When you don’t reverence your husband you are hurting . . . yourself. If you ask me, this paragraph is a case study in manipulation.

Debi follows this paragraph by pointing out that presidents are treated like respect by every citizen, regardless of whether they voted for him or not. Now first of all, this is not in my experience entirely true, but regardless, presidents are not only democratically elected but can also be replaced in four years if they exercise their office badly. Secondly, it strikes me that as with her argument that the husband is the commanding officer while the wife is the foot soldier, the power dynamic this sets un in a marriage is completely toxic. I mean, it’s not like the president lives in your house 24/7 ordering you around and expecting you to jump when he says jump, and it’s not like he even has the authority to do that. And if he did, that would be a problem. Really, with a president, it’s the office that is given respect, not necessarily the man who holds it, and Debi seems to be arguing that you must reverence your husband as a person, not just his position as your husband (whatever that would look like!).

In the next section, Debi gets more explicit about just what this reverence should entail.

Your husband is not there to show you deference or to be your helper. It is NOT God’s will for your husband to reverence you. It is not God’s plan for you to remain seated at the dinner table or in your lounge chair and expect him to serve himself. Our modern society has conditioned us to expect him to serve us. It hurts our feelings if if he doesn’t do things that we feel he owes us, but that is not the plan God set into place.

You know what I think is foreign to Debi? A relationship where both parties serve each other, while at the same time making sure not to neglect their own needs. Debi’s about to invoke the evil feminists, and that’s pretty clearly what she’s referencing in this paragraph too. Feminism isn’t about forcing men to serve women, it’s about rejecting the idea that women should be expected to serve men while they remain seated at the dinner table or in their lounge chairs.

Our culture stands diametrically opposed to God at every turn. It is time to realize that feminist beliefs have tainted almost all the public schools and even the best of Christian teachers.

Those evil horrible man-hating feminists. They don’t know their proper places as women—which, of course, is to wait on men hand and foot.

Women feel that they will lose some of their self-respect if they if they surrender to a man who is less than wonderful. Surrendering your autonomy to another is not for wimps. People say of an obedient woman, “Oh, she is just the meek and timid type; she needs to get a life of her own.” They know not whereof they speak.

Surrender. Yes, Debi is using the word surrender.

Also, I find it very confusing that Debi goes from endorsing “surrendering your autonomy to another” to laughing at the people who say that an “obedient” woman “needs to get a life of her own.” I mean, really? That whole part involving a woman “surrendering your autonomy to another” is the reason people say she “needs to get a life of her own.” If you surrender your autonomy to another, by definition you don’t have a life of your own. In fact, without autonomy you rather start to lose your own personhood.

This is not abstract, puzzling doctrine; it’s practical and pragmatic. The more I show my husband reverence, the more he treasures me and treats me like his queen. God made man so that our deference and respect feed his tendency to show tenderness and to be protective of us.

First off, nowhere in the Bible does God actually say that. Second, just because this works for Debi doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Regardless of what Debi says, there is no natural law saying that when a woman reverences a man he automatically treasures her. It’s also possible that a man might want a woman to treat him as an equal and might recoil at being reverenced, or that a man might respond to being reverenced by becoming an egotistical dictator.

Also? Just as we say that women are not coin machines where you put in friendship and out comes sex, even so men are not coin machines where you put in reverence out comes tenderness. Debi seems to see men as machines, and if you just push the right buttons you’ll get out your desired results.

Reverence is not just how you act; it is how you feel and how you respond with words and with your body language. It is not enough to get up and serve him; your eyes and the quick, carefree swing of your body must indicate your delight to be engaged in serving your man.

And this is where it starts to turn into mind control. It’s not enough to reverence a man with your actions, you have to match that with your body language. And with the amount of times Debi is using the word “serve,” I’m starting to feel that the she should replace the term “help meet” with “servant.”

You cannot fool a man. He can see your heart as well or better than you can.

And that is creepy. And disconcerting. And bullshit. And manipulative.

Keep an eye on his dinner plate so you can anticipate his needs. Deference is a hot cup of tea while you take his shoes off after a hard day’s work. It is a glad face when he returns after being gone for a short time. It is thankfulness for his attention and affection. Deference to your man is the height of true femininity. It makes a woman beautiful, gracious, and lovely to all, but most especially to him.

And here is where Debi goes full 1950s.

Also, have you ever wondered what evangelicals and fundamentalists mean when they insist that women need to be “feminine”? Debi appears to connect that term to “deference to your man.” Ugh.

Next week we move away from abstract ideas and into some more personal stories.

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Read everything by Libby Anne!

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 

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