Mutuality Week and the burden of proof

I go to check out at the library and the library clerk asks to see my card.

Fair demand. Am I or am I not a member in good standing entitled to check out these books? Here we have a controversy, a dispute, an unsettled question in need of settling. The clerk has asked a legitimate question and the burden of proof rests on me to respond.

So I give her my library card. That settles things easily. I have met the burden of proof and no longer need to shoulder it. The objection has been addressed, responded to and satisfied. The controversy is resolved. The dispute is ended. I check out my books.

That is how the library works because that is how life works.

Legitimate questions can and should be asked, but there is no reason to keep asking them after they have been answered. If they continue to be asked after the answer has been provided, then they cease to be legitimate questions.

We will all, at times, rightly be asked to bear the burden of proof. But after we have met that burden, we can no longer rightly be asked to keep carrying that weight.

This is how life works most of the time.

But not all of the time. Not with the perennial controversies — those disputes that are never resolved.

I’m not talking here about the perennial questions pondered by philosophers since the beginning of time — the big questions that defy certainty and resolution. The perennial controversies are not like the perennial questions. The perennial questions cannot be answered conclusively. The perennial controversies can be. And have been.

But those who have answered these questions, who have responded to the substance of every objection, who have satisfied every protest, are never allowed to move on. They have met the burden of proof, time and time and time again, yet they are forever being asked to continue carrying that burden.

This is unjust, and a bit silly. But it happens because the perennial controversies aren’t really controversies at all. They are not about questions in need of answers, objections in need of response or assertions in need of support. They are about power. Those who have it do not wish to share it, cede it, grant it or allow it for anyone else. Instead, since they have the power to do so, they just keep asking the same questions over and over, pretending they haven’t been answered, burdening the powerless with an inescapable and permanent burden of proof.

That is the cycle in which we’re stuck — an endless repetition of the perennial controversies.

Which brings us to Rachel Held Evans’ Week of Mutuality. This is a Very Good Thing. Held Evans is a whipsmart, engaging writer and she’s enlisted or inspired plenty of other excellent bloggers to take up this theme with her this week. Here’s how she summarizes this effort in a preface to her first post in the series:

One In Christ: A Week of Mutuality [is] dedicated to discussing an egalitarian view of gender — including relevant biblical texts and practical applications. The goal is to show how scripture, tradition, reason, and experience all support a posture of equality toward women, one that favors mutuality rather than hierarchy, in the home, church, and society.

That’s an excellent goal and she and the other participating bloggers are doing a great job of meeting that goal.

But note the dynamic here. They’ve accepted that the burden of proof is on them — that somehow, in the church and among Christians, the default setting is a presumption against equality and mutuality. That’s an accurate assessment of where things actually stand in the church. That presumption against equality is a real and widespread phenomenon. Women’s equality with men is not the status quo in the church.

It ought to make a difference, though, that having accepted the burden of proof, Rachel Held Evans et. al. are meeting that burden. They’re supplying the proof, satisfying the objections, responding to every counter-argument. That ought to make a difference. That ought to mean that the burden of proof is shifted back onto those who oppose equality.

But it won’t mean that. I know this because I’ve seen all this happen before, again and again. RHE & Co. aren’t the first group of smart, patient, reasonable Christians to sit down and marshal all of this evidence, address all of the opposing concerns, and present a compelling and thorough rebuttal of every defense of inequality.

And they won’t be the last to do that. Because women’s equality in the church is a perennial controversy. It’s not an argument about questions and answers, biblical interpretation, evidence, tradition, reason and experience. It’s a power dispute.

They answered all the questions, but those with the power will keep on asking them just as though they hadn’t said a word. They have met the burden of proof, but those with the power will insist they continue to carry it just as though they hadn’t done so.

In a recent post titled “How to win a culture war and lose a generation,” Held Evans wrote eloquently about how the tone and substance of the culture warriors was driving the Millennial generation away from the church. But here’s the other immensely frustrating thing about those culture wars that the Millennials will eventually learn over time: They never end.

Worse than that, they never change. They never leave Square One. They just endlessly repeat the same questions, the same objections, the same demands that the powerless shoulder the burden of proof.

If the powerless — in this case, women in the church — want equality and a seat at the table, then they’re going to have to earn it, they are told. And so they do. They earn it. They prove they belong. They make their case. They meet every demand and every burden of proof.

And then they’re sent back to Square One and told to do it all over again.

I absolutely want to commend Rachel Held Evans and her participants for the excellent stuff they’ve put together this week. And I want to recommend it to everyone else. But I also think back to something Sarah Bessey wrote late last year, which ultimately is the only appropriate response to the perennial controversies.

I am done fighting for a seat at the table,” Bessey wrote:

Enjoy your table, gentlemen.

… The men at the table may be loud but the pockets of hope and love and freedom are spreading like yeast. I see it. I feel it in the ground under my feet. More and more of us are sick of waiting for a seat and so we are simply going outside, to freedom, together. And here, outside, we’re finding each other and it’s beautiful and crazy and churchy and holy.

D.L.M. quoted from Bessey’s post in a piece for McSweeney’s. She, too, turns her back on the perennial controversies, gladly rejecting the fingers-crossed promise of a seat at the table for the reality of a place in the kingdom:

And while the church still argues about who can and can’t bring it, it is already coming. I have seen it with my eyes. I have tried in my own poor way to tell you all this time: it is already here.

It is already here. And it is not to be found at that table.

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  • aunursa

    I go to check out at the library and the library clerk asks to see my card.

    Wait a minute. You needed to show an ID?

    You don’t need to show an ID to vote, but you needed to show some form of ID to check out a library book? What’s up with that??? Clearly the librarians are a bunch of racists.

    /shut-up-aunursa-you’re-completely-missing-the-point-of-the-entire-post

  • Beroli

     

    /shut-up-aunursa-you’re-completely-missing-the-point-of-the-entire-post

    I think you probably got the point of the post. Or, if you didn’t, you would if you’d chosen to think about it. You just opted to hijack the post and use it for one of your hobbyhorses instead.

  • Ursula L

    Of course.

    If you are going to deny someone something they have a right to, then you have the burden of proof to show that they don’t have the right.

    Now, borrowing a library book is a small thing.  If Fred forgets his library card, and can’t borrow a book today, he can easily come back with his card tomorrow, or read the book in the library.

    But voting is a big deal.  So to deny someone the right to vote, it shouldn’t be on a minor thing like forgetting ID.  If you want to deny someone the right to vote, it is reasonable to have a high standard of proof for that denial of the most fundamental act of democratic participation.  

    Voting?  I don’t see any need for ID.  The eligibility standards for a given election are presented to the voter.  The voter swears or affirms that they are eligible to vote – a citizen, or a resident of the district, or whatever the standards are for that particular election.  They vote, they dip their thumb in purple dye to show that they have voted and prevent double voting.  If there are several districts voting in one polling place, they may have to give their address to determine that they’re sent to the right voting booth.  

    If someone wants to challenge an individual’s right to vote, then they need to be at the polling place with evidence to prove that the individual is ineligible to vote in that particular election. 

    Voting is a fundamental political right.  That puts the burden of proof is on the people who want to stop someone from voting.  You think a given individual doesn’t have the right to vote in a particular election?  Prove it.  

    Taking books from the library isn’t an activity protected by the Constitution.  

  • Lunch Meat

    Not to mention that if someone can check out lots of books without the library knowing who they are or having anyway to contact them or know how many books they’ve checked out, that could hurt the library pretty badly and they are less able to recover, since they rely on donations. One vote is generally not going to hurt the electoral process all that much.

  • Tricksterson

    Aaand you walked right into his trap.

  • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

     Show me where getting a book in a library is a constitutional right people have died for, you disingenuous troll. 

  • Seraph4377

    Yes, aunursa, you’re completely missing the point of the entire post, and yes, the people enacting voter ID laws are a bunch of racists who are using the exact same tactics as previous generations of racists, as I’m sure you know. 

    There.  Someone used the “R” word.  You can feel all oppressed now, if you want.

    What a tiresome, tiresome bore you are.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Fred posts about how women have been denied their rightful place in a powerful organization.

    Aunursa comes in flailing about how more people should be denied their rightful place in democracy. “Waaah what about my concerns!” Why hello there, privileged person. Lemme tell you a little secret: IT IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU. 

    As for proving and re-proving and hoping it will mean anything, Rachel Held Evans is wasting her energy. Bessey is right. We do not get a seat at the table men make — that’s the whole point of their table. We need to make our own table. Then lots of men happen to think, “hm, I like their table better,” but that’s not the point. The point is that we get a table, not that we persuade men of anything. It is not about men. 

  • Tonio

     

    Clearly the librarians are a bunch of racists.

    You also missed the point of the criticisms of the ID laws. For decades, many states had poll taxes and literacy tests for voting. Both might seem benign to some degree, if one didn’t know that most blacks at the time were poor and couldn’t read and write. They were called “de facto” laws because they were originally proposed by people who sought to keep blacks from voting. There were probably some supporters who favored the laws for non-racist reasons, and the laws did keep some whites from voting. But the laws were racist first and foremost because of the disproportionate impact on blacks.

    So it’s entirely reasonable to suspect that the modern voter ID laws were first proposed by people who similarly wanted to suppress turnout among minorities. To be fair, the likely motive may have been less about keeping minorities disadvantaged and more about gaining unfair advantage at the polls. But it’s the impact that’s important, not the motive. George Wallace was actually fairly liberal by Alabama standards early in his political career before going “mean on race” as a campaign strategy. One doesn’t have to be a racist to perpetuate racism.

  • Jurgan

    You didn’t miss the point, you’re just ignoring it to talk about something else entirely.  Tempting as it is, I’m not going to respond to your trolling, and I’d encourage everyone else to do the same.  For those who care about facts, there are already some good posts above me responding to this, but, as Fred points out, facts won’t stop people from making the same arguments over and over again.

  • Donalbain

    Borrowing a library book is not a fundamental right.

  • TheFaithfulStone

    In a related complaint – I’m sitting here reading Kos, looking at all of the many, many, MANY times that it’s pointed out that Mitt Romney is a lying liar who lies, and realizing that it doesn’t matter AT ALL.

    I’m not sure if I want “the good guys” to win by just abandoning rationality – but as Fred points out here, we’re not making any progress by being factually correct.

    It feels dangerous close to a uncomfortable paternalism to just embrace the fact that most people’s beliefs and opinions are totally irrational and just play to them so that in fact people who believe in math are allowed to steer the economy, and I’m not sure whether I’d rather live in a society where true believers drive it directly into the ground, or one where people pander shamelessly to you, only to make informed decisions later.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The basic point is “a person who makes an assertion is required, reasonably, to provide evidence to support it.”

    Reversing that burden of proof is often used by people in a position of power over others as a way to reinforce existing structures, rather than from any good faith basis.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I’ve been thinking about a bible verse in the context of homophobia and transphobia and misogyny and so forth.  Because it keeps on popping into my head as what seems like it ought to have solved these problems before there even were Christian churches.  It’s from the preached down to four story:

    There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

    Ok, so it still allows for one to be an asshole to various flavors of non-Christians on all sorts of topics.  But how can that not be the ultimate weapon against all of this shit when discussing other Christians?

  • Katy-Anne

    I love Rachel’s series, but I am continually frustrated by the complementarians (normally the men but occasionally the women) who are complaining that egalitarianism sounds “close” to what they believe except that they believe in hierarchy. I don’t understand how they think mutuality and hierarchy are related at all. They either believe in male privilege or they don’t.

  • Ursula L

    I love Rachel’s series, but I am continually frustrated by the complementarians (normally the men but occasionally the women) who are complaining that egalitarianism sounds “close” to what they believe except that they believe in hierarchy. I don’t understand how they think mutuality and hierarchy are related at all. They either believe in male privilege or they don’t. 

    On a purely theoretical level, I can sort of see what they mean.  

    Many complementarian concepts of gender roles in relationships make the man/husband nominally the “head” but with the obligation to love, respect, protect etc. their wife with a huge willingness to self-sacrifice for the sake of the wife and their family.

    So, theoretically, if a medical decision needed to be made for a child, and the wife had a medical degree but the husband didn’t, he would decide, but he would do so with complete respect and honor for her, which includes respecting her education, which means deciding the way that she, as the medical expert of the family, suggested.  Which is, in practical terms, pretty much the same thing as having the wife, as the medical expert in the family, making the decision. 

    The problem, of course, is that men, and husbands, aren’t perfect.  So they won’t carry out their responsibility perfectly.   

    Which means that a wife in a complementarian relationship will inevitably find herself on occasion in a position where her husband is making decisions that are wrong for her, and wrong for their family.  

    The reasonable response to the way that the facts of the world don’t fit the theories of complementary gender roles is to reevaluate the theory.  Men aren’t perfect, because they’re human, so you need a theory that takes this into account.  And egalitarian relationships take into account the fact that humans are human, and both spouses can make mistakes, better than a theory that assumes that one spouse will always be right.  

    But people who believe in complementary gender roles don’t do this reevaluation.  Faced with the problem of men making bad decisions for their families, the response is that the woman needs to submit, anyway.  If a woman with a medical degree chooses to sign consent forms for her child to receive a life saving appendectomy against her husband’s wishes, even if he has no understanding of medicine at all, she’s doing wrong.  

    If pushed into a corner and forced to address the problem of the child needing an appendectomy, complementarians avoid the question.  Or they suggest that the wife pray that her husband’s heart will be turned.  Or that she should trust that even though the husband’s refusal to authorize medical care for their child makes no sense, it is part of God’s will and she should have faith that the outcome will be the one God wants.   

    In the real world, if someone is acting from ignorance or from malice, you do what you have to in order to ensure the right thing happens.  In complementarian-world,  a wife has a duty to submit that is completely unaffected by any ignorance or malice in the husband she is supposed to submit to. 

  • Tonio

    I’m somewhat more extreme than you on this issue. I say that societies, cultures, and traditions shouldn’t impose roles on the sexes in the first place. I mean anything that equates to “You’re a woman so you must do X with your life or you’re wrong or abnormal.”

    In principle, there’s nothing wrong with a couple choosing to have one spouse with authority over the other, as long as it’s done with the full consent of both spouses. Male privilege here is about the hierarchy of one gender over the other being a custom or norm, even when it isn’t a religious teaching. The default in societies and relationships should be gender egalitarianism.

  • Ursula L

    Tonio, I’m actually 100% in agreement with you on that.

    My point was not that complementarianism would be fine if only people would do it right.

    My point is that complementarians are arguing about how their idea of complementarianism should work in theory, but not addressing the problems that complementarianism has in fact.  

    So they can see various arguments about why equality is better in practice, and say that if only if their theory was properly applied, the result would be pretty much the same.  

    And one part of creating a convincing response to claims that compementarianism is the correct theory is being very explicit about the differences between perfectly applied theory and the facts of human nature and human relationships.  

    They do not get to frame the discussion to be about how their idea works in theory in comparison to how our idea works in practice.  

  • Tonio

    Glad to hear about the agreement. I guess I thought my post sounded more extreme because your post appeared to treat complimentarians as if they are arguing in good faith. Just as intelligent design is creationism in a lab coat, complimentarianism is merely patriarchy attempting  the same disguise. These men aren’t idealists – their tactic of arguing from theory is merely rationalization for preserving their privilege.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    your post appeared to treat complimentarians as if they are arguing in good faith.

    Some of them are. Most of those eventually realise their arguments aren’t good enough, and end up becoming egalitarians.

  • Tonio

    How strange. Imagine someone making the same arguments as the complimentarians but with “male” and “female” replaced with “white” and “non-white.” That would sound almost exactly like the old rationalizations of slavery and imperialism.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Yes, it would.

    Not entirely sure why you’re telling me this…

  • Tonio

     Sorry, I should have been more clear. You’re suggesting that there are a number of people who argue in good faith for complimentarianism without grasping at first that it’s an elaborate pseudo-scientific rationalization of sexism. That would seem to require a tremendous blind spot both intellectually and morally.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    You’re suggesting that there are a number of people who argue in good faith for complimentarianism without grasping at first that it’s an elaborate pseudo-scientific rationalization of sexism. That would seem to require a tremendous blind spot both intellectually and morally.

    Yep. And yep.

    Especially if you’ve grown up in an environment where everyone around you is a complementarian, it’s easy to sincerely believe that it’s a reasonable position supported by both theology and logic. And yes – thinking that will almost certainly mean you have a HUMUNGOUS blind spot.

    The way to tell the difference between those arguing in good faith and those who are just trying to rationalise their privilege? When they start arguing against egalitarians and discover how much their arguments suck, they start changing their ideas.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    For the record, Tonio…

    I have never been a complementarian. I have been someone who argues that opposition to homosexuality is reasonable, that we should “love the sinner, hate the sin”, and that it’s not at all unloving to talk like that.

    But I was taking this position because I’d grown up with everyone I loved and trusted taking the same position, and because I had never encountered anyone telling me the problems with what was being said. When I started hearing different arguments, my ideas (slowly) began to change.

    I have no problem with someone saying that a position is one that is mostly being upheld because it can help to rationalise someone keeping their privilege. I do have a problem with someone saying that everyone who takes that position must be doing so to keep their privilege – that they couldn’t possibly be arguing in good faith. Because, in my experience, some people are almost certainly arguing in good faith. And it’s very possible that they’ll end up changing their minds.

  • Tonio

    I do have a problem with someone saying that everyone who takes that position must be doing so to keep their privilege – that they couldn’t possibly be arguing in good faith.

    I wasn’t claiming that. I’m using the terms complimentarianism and gender essentialism not necessarily to refer to the  position that the sexes should play certain roles with men as authorities, but to the elaborate arguments and rationales in support of that position. You’re right that the former can be easily acquired from upbringing, where many people simply parrot the attitudes they heard expressed by elders. My point is that crafting and those rationales in that detail and arguing for them involves conscious thought, and they would fall apart under any truly honest and rational scrutiny. So I would suspect that maintaining that artifice for any length of time requires some vested interest in gender privilege.

    I have been someone who argues that opposition to homosexuality is reasonable

    That’s where you and I truly differ. I see that opposition as unreasonable since homosexuality is morally neutral just like heterosexuality – both pose no inherent harm to others outside the relationships. The opposition amounts to prying into people’s personal lives. It would be reasonable, however, for an individual to believe that he or she shouldn’t be gay, but that’s not the same thing as believing that no one should be gay.

  • Tonio

    Put another way, sexism is to creationism what complimentarianism and gender essentialism are to Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort’s banana argument.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    I have been someone who argues that opposition to homosexuality is reasonable
    That’s where you and I truly differ. I see that opposition as unreasonable since homosexuality is morally neutral just like heterosexuality – both pose no inherent harm to others outside the relationships.

    Err… me too. I was talking in past tense.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

     My point is that complementarians are arguing about how their idea of complementarianism should work in theory, but not addressing the problems that complementarianism has in fact.  

    As Terry Pratchett put it: “it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.”

    And when you decide you have the wrong kind of people, well, obviously the solution is to force the people to change…

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    It is completely morally unacceptable to shove one gender into one role and another gender into another role. (And that’s assuming there are only two genders, which is not true.) 

    Some people want to lead. Other people want to follow. No one always wants to lead, and no one always wants to follow. Trying to shove men into leading and women into following all the time is absurd, unworkable, impractical, and deeply cruel. It denies all of us the great joy that comes from partnership. It pretends consent is a thing that does not matter, which is sick. And the only reason this metric exists the way it does in our society is because of misogyny. 

    Choosing one person to be the leader and the other to be the follower in a relationship is a completely different thing. Because it’s about consent and choice, which are both things that are anathema to societies that police gender.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I am reminded of Ken Levine’s writing for Bioshock.  Yes, it is a big deconstruction of Ayn Rand, but the Rand references were only a case study.  The deconstruction was more generally about utopian fiction based on personal ideology.  Levine’s thesis was that the problem with ideology-based societies is that they only work as long as the people who populate them are themselves paragons of that ideology (a trope he saw as too common in utopian fiction.)  

    The theme in Bioshock was not necessarily “this ideology sucks” but more “no ideology, no matter how theoretically awesome, survives contact with actual people.”  People are flawed, and no matter how strongly they might hold a personal ideology, nobody ends up being able to apply it perfectly all the time.  And when you try to build an entire society on that ideology, well, it is only a matter of time before it either collapses or fall into a more relaxed application of those ideals.  

  • ako

    In addition to the other points cited, I think a lot of people see their version of complimentarianism as “close” to egalitarianism because it’s not obviously horrible, and they don’t see it as needlessly tyrannical or bullying.  Mild “Everyone has their separate place, and so long as Those People stay in their place, everything will be just fine” bigotry often doesn’t feel, from the bigot’s side, like it has anything in common with hateful bigotry.  It can feel downright benevolent.  So they see other people talking about egalitarian loving marriages and contrasting them with obviously horrible and abusive relationships, and go “Hey, my marriage is much closer to yours than it is to the horrors you describe!”

    It’s much the same reasoning that might have lead a white American woman of a couple generations ago to declare that she didn’t mistreat her black maid, always paid a decent wage, and didn’t use any racial slurs, and therefore she didn’t need a bunch of outsiders stirring up trouble, calling her racist, and trying to disturb a system that (from her perspective) worked perfectly well.  Personal niceness can reduce the amount of mistreatment involved in an inherently unequal relationship, but it can’t eliminate it, and a lot of people don’t want to recognize that.

  • Tricksterson

    Why are you all letting aunursa deral the post by responding to him?

  • Nequam

    Because that’s apparently the done thing around here?

  • Ursula L

    Why are you all letting aunursa deral the post by responding to him? 

    Practice.

    This isn’t the only place where I discuss politics.  And, on a few happy but too rare occasions, I’ve managed to change someone’s mind, so that they began acting, and voting, in a more progressive way.  

    But, on the occasions where that has happened, it hasn’t happened because I’ve suddenly come up with new arguments, or new ways to present progressive ideals.  

    It has happened because I’ve spent a fair amount of time and energy working on presenting progressive ideals in a convincing way.  

    I think my ideas on progressive politics are correct.  But they’re also open to change, if someone presents a compelling argument.  Twenty years ago, on the rare occasions where people talked about same-sex marriage, the idea just wouldn’t fit in my brain – it took time and a lot of people making good arguments to change “does not compute” to “this is obviously right.”  

    And if someone is on the cusp of change, the change is more likely to happen if the people who are encouraging the change can do so in an articulate and accessible way. 

    And it isn’t as if this sort of attempt to derail does anything to exclude discussion of the original post.  I (and we) can do both – practice our responses to people who want restrictive voting policies and discuss Fred’s discussion of the burden of proof in political and social policy.  

    The two are even related – when it comes to voting, I think, with reason, that the burden of proof belongs to the person who is trying to prevent someone from voting.  Because of voting’s particular status in the way we make representative democracy work.  

    “Someone stole your wallet, so you have no ID, so therefore you have no right to vote” is bad policy.  So is “He knows nothing about medicine, but he has a penis, and therefore he should make the decisions about the medical care of your children.”  

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’ve long since quit bothering with someone so out of touch with anything that isn’t white, straight and Republican that they can’t see why they’ve been asked to apologize.

  • Patrick

    The egalitarians are accepting the burden of proof because it is actually, legitimately theirs.  The prima facie case for misogyny is really easy- just cite Biblical passages on the role of women for a while.  And what happens when the burden of proof is quickly and easily satisfied by a simple prima facie case?  It passes to the opposing side.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    No, I do not have to prove that I am a human being equal to other human beings. There’s a lot of stuff in the Bible. Only those people who are pre-disposed to misogyny believe the misogynistic stuff. 

    The burden of proof is never on anyone to prove that they are human beings equal to other human beings. Not on the unemployed or stockbrokers or writers or butchers. Not on ciswomen or transwomen or people who don’t feel they have gender. Not on asexuals or pansexuals or homosexuals or heterosexuals. Not on Muslims or Catholics or atheists or Wiccans. Not on people with light pink skin or dark brown skin or any other shade of skin. Not on 80 year olds or 30 year olds or 15 year olds or 4 year olds. Not on poor people or rich people or in-between people. Not on disabled people, not on Olympic athletes (disabled or not), not on autistic people, not on Stephen Hawking.

    We are all human. This fact is blatantly obvious. When people contort themselves and the obvious truth to try to get around that, they have a reason, and it is never a good one. They are the ones with the burden of proof, to try to prove something that will never be proven, because the undeniable fact is that every single person on this planet has equal worth. 

  • Patrick

     Lliira wrote: “The burden of proof is never on anyone to prove that they are human beings equal to other human beings.”

    But that’s not the debate.  The debate is whether the Bible says they are human beings equal to other human beings.

    “There’s a lot of stuff in the Bible. Only those people who are pre-disposed to misogyny believe the misogynistic stuff.”

    But that doesn’t entitle those opposed to misogyny to pretend that the misogynistic stuff  isn’t there.  And a compatibility with modern liberal moral standards doesn’t exonerate intellectually unserious Biblical exegesis.

  • Lunch Meat

    The egalitarians are accepting the burden of proof because it is actually, legitimately theirs.  The prima facie case for misogyny is really easy- just cite Biblical passages on the role of women for a while.  And what happens when the burden of proof is quickly and easily satisfied by a simple prima facie case?  It passes to the opposing side.

    So you cite your handful of proof texts on how women have to submit to their husbands and are not allowed to teach, and we cite our proof texts with the female judges and prophetesses and heroines who were not submissive or patient and managed their own households and led churches and were treated equally by Jesus and displayed greater understanding and faithfulness than many men, and the part where Paul tells husbands to submit to their wives in the same verse where he tells wives to submit to their husbands, and then we both have prima facie cases and we have to accept that the Bible is contradictory. And what then?

  • Patrick

    Serious question- what do YOU think happens?

    For the record, if I’m arguing for myself and not the complementarians, I won’t just cite a “handful” of “proof texts.”  I’m gonna go nuclear with the old testament endorsement of the mass rape of teenage girls as a weapon of war during ethnic cleansing campaigns.  I’ll start there, and move forward.

    But I can tell you what I’d say if I were a complementarian- first, you’ve misunderstood it.  Its ok for women to go out and be leaders, so long as their husbands are still holding the reigns.  Remember Palin?  And you might be shocked to find that complementarians actually view that passage from Paul as supporting THEIR view, not yours… they view it as demonstrating that, although the husband is supposed to be in charge, he’s supposed to lead like a servant, or some crap like that, I can’t use their buzzwords anymore, its been too long.  Anyways, the reason they cite it is to defend against claims that complementarianism is sexist.  They don’t get the irony in recapitulating old apologetics for monarchism.

    And were I a complementarian, I’d continue: I’d note that the specific modifies the general- if you have some general statements like “sometimes women behave wisely, and men don’t,” and you have a specific moral teaching like “women should never ask questions in church because they’ll humiliate their husbands with their stupidity,” the latter is a specific rule, and the former is a general statement from which you’re deriving the shape of a rule.  If your goal is to harmonize the two, obviously the latter tells you how you should interpret the former.  That’s basic logic and reasoning in all contexts, not just Biblical contexts.  If you invert that rule, you won’t be able to harmonize a grocery list, much less a holy text.

    But this is getting beside the point.  You can probably ignore the last two paragraphs if you’re not interested in the specifics of complementarianism. 

    Complementarians have simple, easily understood arguments that operate very effectively if your goal is to harmonize Biblical text at all costs.  Egalitarians have the argument that the text can’t be harmonized.  In all seriousness, where do you think the conversation is going to go from there?  Have you ever had that conversation?

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Complementarians have simple, easily understood arguments that operate very effectively if your goal is to harmonize Biblical text at all costs.

    Nooooot reeeeeallly…

  • Lunch Meat

    Please don’t lecture me on complementarianism. I grew up in a quite conservative church and I understand it intimately.

    Its ok for women to go out and be leaders, so long as their husbands are still holding the reigns.

    None of the female heroines, judges or prophetesses I was thinking of were obeying their husbands. Some of them were outright disobeying (Esther, Abigail) and some of them were not even necessarily married.    

    And you might be shocked to find that complementarians actually view that passage from Paul as supporting THEIR view, not yours… they view it as demonstrating that, although the husband is supposed to be in charge, he’s supposed to lead like a servant, or some crap like that,

    And as someone who knows how to read the Bible in its original language, without the artificial verse and chapter breaks, I view that as doing violence to the text and its meaning.

    the latter is a specific rule, and the former is a general statement from which you’re deriving the shape of a rule.  If your goal is to harmonize the two, obviously the latter tells you how you should interpret the former.  That’s basic logic and reasoning in all contexts, not just Biblical contexts.

    That’s not actually true in exegesis. In exegesis, we look for general themes, such as “love one another” and “there is neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus” and the fact that Jesus honored women, and we set those general themes above the specific rules, because the specific rules are much less easily understood and applied in our modern context. That’s how Jesus did it. He saw two laws, one said “love one another” and one said “don’t work on the Sabbath” and concluded that even though the second one was specific, it was still permissible to heal on the Sabbath.

    Complementarians have simple, easily understood arguments that operate very effectively if your goal is to harmonize Biblical text at all costs.  Egalitarians have the argument that the text can’t be harmonized.  In all seriousness, where do you think the conversation is going to go from there?  Have you ever had that conversation?

    Yes, I have, and it’s the conversation that led me from complementarianism to egalitarianism. We are not arguing that the text cannot be harmonized, we are arguing that the text cannot be harmonized if one is committed to treating it as a rule book that is meant to give specific and clear commands for every situation in easy-to-apply proof texts.  Because it’s not that. It actually makes a fairly crappy rule book. My pointing out of contradictions is intended to lead people to a more mature level of Biblical interpretation, and it actually generally works with people who are committed to understanding. They use it every year in freshman Bible class.

  • Patrick

    “That’s not actually true in exegesis. In exegesis, we look for general
    themes, such as “love one another” and “there is neither male nor
    female, for all are one in Christ Jesus” and the fact that Jesus honored
    women, and we set those general themes above the specific rules,
    because the specific rules are much less easily understood and applied
    in our modern context.”

    That’s how many people do exegesis, yes.  But if your goal is to harmonize the text, it’s objectively wrong. 

    That may not be your goal!  Its ok if that’s not your goal!  Frankly, its a dumb goal, because the text can’t actually be harmonized, so if you insist on accomplishing it you’re going to end up with something vacuous!

    But if you use the general to modify the specific while attempting to harmonize, you’re a poor reader. This really isn’t up for discussion:

    1. I like small pets…
    2. for example, cats.

    If you interpret the specific to modify the general, you will conclude that the my vague statement (what’s a “small” pet, really?) is clarified by the the reference to cats.  Apparently pets the size of cats count as small.

    If you interpret the general to modify the specific, you might start with an idea of “small,” consider whether cats fit that idea, and conclude that I do not like cats because they are too large.

    That is not acceptable, even if you learned it in a Bible study.

  • Lunch Meat

    To use your example, what if you say, “1) I only like small pets. 2) Small pets are smaller than 6 inches. 3) I like cats.” This is a contradiction, and it cannot be harmonized as written. The person saying it must be either lying or confused about what a cat is or what an inch is. But if the person who said it was someone I don’t know, who actually said it 2000 years ago, in a language I can’t know for sure I understand, in a letter to a group of people in a culture I know for sure, then I have several options. One, for instance, is that the word that has been translated “cat” doesn’t actually refer to the housecat that I know. In this situation, I cannot harmonize the text with itself, but then I’m not really trying to, am I? I’m trying to harmonize it with reality, with my experience, with my life.

    And if the text I’m referring to is one that I consider to be some kind of authority over me, this is extremely important because I can’t just take it at face value. In reading a novel, the object (roughly) is to understand. In that case, you are correct that one uses the specific to modify the general. But if I’m going to be applying the text to my life, I have to make sure the specific actually applies to me, and if it doesn’t make sense in the context of my life and culture, then I’m going to go with the general. 

    Here’s another text that can’t be harmonized with itself, but must be harmonized with reality: “1) Love one another. 2) Love does no harm to its neighbor. 3) Women must be silent in the church.” By your logic, I should say that one example of “love” is silencing people. But I already know that “love does no harm.” My experience shows that silencing people does a great deal of harm. Therefore, I conclude that I’m misunderstanding the word silent, or the context of church, or that the person who copied this text wasn’t trustworthy, or that although I generally respect the specific person who wrote text #3, I have to disagree with him on this point.

    I suppose this is more applicable to hermeneutics than exegesis. But hermeneutics is not at all like passive reading, and I believe it’s wrong to passively read something and then take it as an authority over your life and the lives of others without going through the process of exegesis and hermeneutics. I am not reading the Bible like I would any other text, because to me it is different, and I have a different relationship with it.

    And again, the goal of this pointing out contradictions is to move people to a more mature level of Biblical interpretation and ethical sense, and it works.

  • Swbarnes2

    “And if the text I’m referring to is one that I consider to be some kind of authority over me”
     
    It doesn’t strike you as a bad idea to choose to put a text that you admit you don’t understand in authority over you?  Isn’t that like choosing to play high stakes poker when you don’t understand how the hands rank?
     
    “Here’s another text that can’t be harmonized with itself, but must be harmonized with reality: “1) Love one another. 2) Love does no harm to its neighbor. 3) Women must be silent in the church.” By your logic, I should say that one example of “love” is silencing people.”
     
    If by “love” you mean “’love’ as defined by the text”, then yes, I think you have to conclude that.  How else can you understand how a text defines a word except by looking at how that word is used in the text? 

     “or that the person who copied this text wasn’t trustworthy, or that although I generally respect the specific person who wrote text #3, I have to disagree with him on this point.”

     
    So now you are taking a text that you know you don’t understand, and that you know is inaccurate, and that’s your authority?  What’s the point of that?  What’s the point of calling a text an authority if, every time the text disagrees with your own judgment, you go with your own judgment?  Why not just trust your own judgment and skip the text?
     
     

  • Lunch Meat

    a) Maybe I should say “guide” instead of authority. b) I choose to read it and consider it because it challenges me and it makes me look at things in a new and different way, and because it is part of how I connect with my deity and my faith community.

    If by “love” you mean “’love’ as defined by the text”, then yes, I think you have to conclude that.  How else can you understand how a text defines a word except by looking at how that word is used in the text?

    Because I am looking at how the word is used, and love is explicitly defined as “does no harm”. There is no way for me not to see “silencing people” and “does no harm” as not in conflict–so I go with the principle of doing no harm.

  • Lunch Meat

    Also, I believe the text can be understood, but it is not nearly as easy as some would make it out to be.

  • swbarnes2

    “Maybe I should say “guide” instead of authority.”

    What you call it doesn’t really matter.  Let’s say that I think a new episode of Mad Man airs tonight, and I’m really looking forward to it.  I consult an online guide, and it tells me its a rerun instead.  Either I can ignore what the guide says, or I can let the information in the guide lead me to reject my previous belief.  If I’m not going to believe the guide when it disagrees with me, what’s the point in consulting it at all?   If every single time I use my Thomas guide, I double-check it with google maps, and believe google maps over the Thomas guide when the two disagree, how does it make sense to say that the Thomas guide is my guide?

    I don’t see how a guide can guide you if you don’t let it correct your errors, and it can’t do that if you take every bit that you personally disagree with and say “well, I don’t think that bit’s for me, and that bit’s inaccurate, and I just don’t agree with that other bit either”.”

    ” There is no way for me not to see “silencing people” and “does no harm” as not in conflict–so I go with the principle of doing no harm.”

    You mean that you currently don’t understand how that is possible.   Likewise, lots of people say “I can’t read Genesis, and see howit means something other than ‘6 days'”,  or “There’s is no way for me to to read Leviticus and think that God approves of same-sex relationships, so I go with the principle of going with what God said” but when people say that, everyone here scurries to tell them that they need to work harder at understanding the text, because their understanding must be wrong. 

    Or, to put it another way, if it looks like the text has a conflict, it could be because the text works under a different set of premises than you hold, and under that set, there’s no conflict.  If you literally can’t see how those statements harmoize, then it’s likely because you don’t understand your guide’s foundation.  If it is indeed your guide, you should have a firm grasp of those foundations, and either your accept its premsies, or you don’t.  And if you don’t, why is it your guide?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    You seem to be assuming an exclusionary model here, and I don’t quite see why that’s justified.

    Lots of things guide me. They aren’t always in perfect alignment with each other. Life is like that.

    If my experience of a text is in tension with my experience of the world, and I respect both the text and the world, then I sit with that tension and let it inform my subsequent experience of both.

    It works pretty well for me.

  • swbarnes2

    “Lots of things guide me. They aren’t always in perfect alignment with each other. Life is like that.”
    When your judgment says “do one thing” and your guide says “don’t do that”, you can’t satisfy both.  You have to pick one over the other.  The Bible says that killing the son of a slave girl is fine if Pharaoh misbehaves.  It says to silence women in church, and it says that non-procreative sex is bad.  I could find a million other points in the Bible where the text makes a moral or historical or scientific claim, and you would likely reject all those claims.  So what kind of guide is that?
    Or, you could concoct some kind of workaround, where you bend the text so that it will match up with your judgment, which is usually light years away from what anyone alive in the time and place of its composition would ever have dreamed of the text meaning.  But why do that?  Why not just go with your judgment in the first place, rather than trying so hard to “understand” the text so that it agrees with what you already think?  If you have to squint and scribble to make your Thomas guide accurate, and you are constantly getting into very long explanations about how it really is an accurate map, if only you understand it properly, you are doing something very peculiar.

    “If my experience of a text is in tension with my experience of the world, and I respect both the text and the world, then I sit with that tension and let it inform my subsequent experience of both.”

    So its impossible for you to conclude “the text is just wrong”? You want to respect a 20 year old Thomas guide, okay, but if you have an important job interview, and it tells you that the address the interview is at doesn’t exist, you really just sit back and enjoy the tension?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I never said “enjoy the tension.” Disagree with me all you like, but I’d prefer if you didn’t put words in my mouth.

    If my judgment tells me that choosing a different door in a Monty Hall problem can’t possibly increase my chances of winning, but mathematicians say that in fact it does, I’m in a situation of tension. My judgment says X is true, mathematicians say NOT X is true. I trust my judgment, and I trust mathematics.

    So what do I do now? Do I ignore my judgment and switch doors? Or do I ignore mathematics and not switch doors? I have to do one or the other, right? I can’t both switch and not-switch. As you say:

    When your judgment says “do one thing” and your guide says “don’t do
    that”, you can’t satisfy both.  You have to pick one over the other.

    So do I pick my judgment and ignore mathematics?
    Or do I pick mathematics and ignore my judgment?

    Well, it depends. In a crisis, if I don’t have time to think about it, I pick mathematics and ignore my judgment. (Which is, of course, itself the result of my judgment.)

    But if I’m not in a crisis, I might reject your claim. I might ask why I have to pick one guide and reject the other. I might instead take seriously the fact that these two guides conflict, and that this suggests that something interesting is going on. I might ultimately ask questions like “Why, if NOT X is true, does X seem so compelling to my judgment?” I might ask “Why, if X is true, is the prevailing wisdom among mathematicians NOT X?”

    If I take that tension seriously, if I pay attention to it, I might learn something about my own cognitive biases that I would never have learned if I just picked one and discarded the other.

    And to my mind, that’s a much better result.

    Sometimes, there are better ways to deal with conflict than choosing one side and rejecting the other.

  • Swbarnes2

    I really don’t get the purpose in bringing up this Monte Hall scenario of yours.  When I was a kid, I spent 5 minutes doing simulations with three playing cards.  Once I saw that my old belief was in conflict with the evidence of my sims, I stopped holding that belief, and the belief I held was in agreement with that of whatever math book I’d been reading, because my sims supported the same conclusion as the book. How does one do a sim on God’s approval of silencing women in church?
     
    “But if I’m not in a crisis, I might reject your claim. I might ask why I have to pick one guide and reject the other. I might instead take seriously the fact that these two guides conflict, and that this suggests that something interesting is going on.”
     
    Is a crisis the only time when you care about believing accurate things?
    In the context of your scenario, you have to pick a door.  In the context of mine, you have to get to the interview.  You can’t sit back and be informed by the tension until doomsday.  And yeah, something “interesting” is going on, but that “interesting” thing is that your brain makes mistakes a lot.  It’s the fundamental axiom of our existence, I would hope that one would have gotten over the novelty long before now.
     
    “If I take that tension seriously, if I pay attention to it, I might learn something about my own cognitive biases that I would never have learned if I just picked one and discarded the other.”
     
    So when the bible says “women should be silent in church” what are you claiming that says about your cognitive biases?  You are arguing my point for me.  If a person is going to call the bible their authority or guide, and the Bible says something they strongly disagree with, that person has to seriously consider that they are wrong, and their guide is right.  It means explicitly making a space to say “Yes, one of these is wrong, I’m going to do the honest thing and turn away from the wrong one, even if I don’t like the consequences.  I decided to make the text my guide because I thought it was right, even in places where I might be wrong, especially in places where I might be wrong, and I have to start with the assumption that that’s the case here.  And if I am constantly finding that the guide is wrong, there has to be a point where I say ‘This is not my guide any more’”.  
     
    That’s not what I see here.  What I see here is “You think the Bible means what conservatives say it means?  No, you need to work harder at understanding it better.  The Bible was written thousands of years ago, in a language you don’t understand, translated by a person who only partially understood the cultural context.  So, no, it wasn’t really written for you, you don’t know enough to understand it correctly, no one alive does.  So keep adding context (no, not the part where sexism, racism, and heterosexism were pervasive and virtually unquestioned) until you “understand” it the way we do; where six days doesn’t mean six days, where gender roles don’t really matter, etc.  If something still doesn’t look like 21st century American liberalism, well, that means it’s just a conflict, and you don’t have to worry about that part.  (It’s a transcription mistake, if you like)  You just worry about the “core” principles, which are all the parts that American liberal Christians like.  And when you understand it correctly, you’ll know, because you’ll see it agrees perfectly with 21st century American liberal Christianity.”
     

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    I really don’t get the purpose in bringing up this Monte Hall scenario of yours.

    Evidently.

    How does one do a sim on God’s approval of silencing women in church?

    As far as I know, one doesn’t.

    Is a crisis the only time when you care about believing accurate things?

    No.

    In the context of your scenario, you have to pick a door.

    That’s not true.

    You can’t sit back and be informed by the tension until doomsday.

    That’s true.

    And yeah, something “interesting” is going on, but that “interesting” thing is that your brain makes mistakes a lot.

    Yes.

    I would hope that one would have gotten over the novelty long before now.

    Sure. Which does not preclude being interested in specifics.

    So when the bible says “women should be silent in church” what are you claiming that says about your cognitive biases?

    Not a thing.

    If a person is going to call the bible their authority or guide, and the Bible says something they strongly disagree with, that person has to seriously consider that they are wrong, and their guide is right.

    I agree.
    Elsewhere, you seem to be arguing not only this, but that that person has to ignore their own feeling of disagreement, and proceed just as if their guide was right and they didn’t disagree.
    I disagree with that. (Perhaps you do too, and I’ve misunderstood you elsewhere.)

    if I am constantly finding that the guide is wrong, there has to be a point where I say ‘This is not my guide any more’

    I agree.

    “You just worry about the “core” principles, which are all the parts that American liberal Christians like.  And when you understand it correctly, you’ll know, because you’ll see it agrees perfectly with 21st century American liberal Christianity.”

    I agree that this is an unhelpful way of thinking about, well, anything at all, really. If I saw someone making this argument, I would be inclined to reject anything they said subsequently, much as you seem to be.

  • Lunch Meat

    Because it challenges me to look at things in a new and different way, and because it is how I connect with my deity and my faith community.

  • Ursula L

    If every single time I use my Thomas guide, I double-check it with google maps, and believe google maps over the Thomas guide when the two disagree, how does it make sense to say that the Thomas guide is my guide?

    This seems to me to be ignoring the ways in which having multiple guides, even if they sometimes conflict, is a useful thing.
    These days, if I’m going someplace new, I’ll start by looking up directions in Google maps.

    But I also have a wide variety of maps that I keep in my car, and any time I’m traveling somewhere new, I”ll head to the AAA and get appropriate and up-to-date paper maps for the trip.

    Because Google maps is good, and useful, and in certain ways better than figuring out my own directions on a paper map.

    But if I get halfway there, and find a road closed, then the paper map is suddenly essential.  I can look up where I am, and where I want to go, and find an alternate route.  This works even if I find myself somewhere without internet access.  It works if the problem is construction or road damage or any of the many other things that Google maps doesn’t keep track of.  

    And neither Google maps nor my paper maps are a substitute for talking to a local, explaining my problem, and asking for directions.  And perhaps asking another local, and then another, as the journey continues and new information is needed. 

    The point of these various guides is not that I am a devoted follower of any one type of guide.  Rather, it is that I have a wide variety of sources of information.  And with that information, I make my own decisions of the way in which I will travel.  

  • P J Evans

    Its ok for women to go out and be leaders, so long as their husbands are still holding the reigns.

    In other words (and ignoring the misspelling of ‘reins’): if a woman has permission from her lord and master, she can pretend she has actual power.
    That’s sexism. Because if they’re really equals, he can support her and not have to hold the reins, and she can lead without being hassled because she’s a woman and supposed to be told what to do by a man. (Note that Palin wasn’t successful. In anything.)

  • Tonio

     

    Complementarians have simple, easily understood arguments that operate
    very effectively if your goal is to harmonize Biblical text at all
    costs.  Egalitarians have the argument that the text can’t be
    harmonized.

    Those might apply if we were talking specifically about Christians in those two groups. Other egalitarians might suggest that their position is the moral one regardless of what the Bible says.

  • Nick Gotts

    The question answers itself: since it’s self-contradictory, it’s necessarily false.

  • Ursula L

    The egalitarians are accepting the burden of proof because it is actually, legitimately theirs.  The prima facie case for misogyny is really easy- just cite Biblical passages on the role of women for a while.  And what happens when the burden of proof is quickly and easily satisfied by a simple prima facie case?  It passes to the opposing side. 

    Since when do a handful of prooftexts count as making a prima face case for anything?  Even for “the Bible teaches X”?  

    It takes more to make a valid argument about what the Bible teaches than a handful of prooftexts.  The texts need to be looked at in context, both their context in the Bible and their historical context.

    And even if you can make the case “the Bible teaches X” it isn’t proof of anything to anyone who doesn’t believe the Bible is an appropriate source of moral guidance.  

    And the people who argue for complementarian theories of relationships are not merely arguing about living their own private beliefs.  They are arguing that civil and social policy and laws should be structured around her theory.  

  • friendly reader

    Not to play into his hands, but come on – we do require people to show the equivalent of a library card. It’s called a voter registration card. You fill one out with your name and all, and then they give you the card and you vote. It’s about the same process as a library card, really. There’s no photo, just a card with your name saying “you may vote/check books out.”

    The proper analogy would be that now, in order to get a library card, you don’t just fill out a short form, you have to present multiple forms of ID, and sorry, that college ID won’t cut it, within a very limited span of time, and then we’ll purge our rolls periodically based on nothing and then you’ll have to come in and prove again that you deserved to get your card.

    Then watch as fewer people check out books from the library because they can’t go through this arduous, pointless process. Because that’s the only goal you could have in doing this: getting fewer people to participate.

  • P J Evans

     Not every place does it that way. Fortunately.
    I show up, I give them my name, they check the list of registered voters in the precinct, I sign on the line, they hand me a ballot.

    Add to the list of idiocies that even a company-issued photo ID doesn’t count for many identification purposes.

  • friendly reader

    Okay, and to get back on topic, here’s why it’s not the default setting, at least not anymore:

    I grew up in a denomination that  had been ordaining women since before I was born. I was raised by parents who had to explain to me that Jesus couldn’t have been a woman because back then women couldn’t preach, but that there in a different time or place Jesus could’ve been female. Also, they both worked and both participated in child rearing and chores.

    I had to have someone explain to me when I was older why some churches wouldn’t let women be pastors or priests. I had to have someone explain to me why some people insisted women couldn’t work outside the home. I’d always taken these things for granted. And I’ve never accepted the arguments against them.

    What’s more, I think the burden of proof can still be on the sexist side even in a social situation where it’s always been that way. I know I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating that in the church I’m currently attending in Japan, which is loosely affiliated with the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS), it once came up at luncheon that my church back home, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) ordains women. One of the middle-aged women in the church immediately spoke up, saying, “I’ve always wonder that – why can’t women be pastors?” I kept my mouth thoroughly shut at the foreign guest as the retired pastor at the table attempted to explain why this was so. The conclusion? The woman sort of threw her hands up and said, “Well, I still don’t understand it!” She didn’t quit the church over it or anything (being as small as they are, laywomen play a much bigger role in the church than they would in an LCMS church in America, even giving the sermon some weeks), but she also didn’t buy the argument. That pleased me a lot.

    Incidentally, I also had to have people explain to me why people would reject evolution and the idea that the world was millions of years old, or why they wouldn’t believe protecting the environment was important. I’ve had it explained to me, and I still don’t buy it. They haven’t met the burden of proof as far as I’m concerned.

  • AnonymousSam

    I’d like to get a library card, but first I need to provide proof of identity and residence. Wouldn’t want some Al Qaeda terrorist getting his hands on a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

  • Tonio

     Maybe bin Laden thought the book contained detailed instructions on making Horcruxes…

  • P J Evans

     That’s actually not unreasonable. Books are expensive, and libraries cost money to maintain (and a surprising number of politicians don’t believe that they’re necessary). If it’s a city or county library, they’ll give you a card free (or at minimal cost) if you live in their area. Otherwise, they’ll charge more, or just tell you to get one where you live.

  • hapax

    Yo, librarian here.

    People are asked to provide ID  to get library cards  mostly in order to provide proof of residence, not proof of identity.

    That is because in our current sucky system of funding public goods like libraries, schools, police, firefighters, etc. in the USA, we rely mostly on local property taxes.  And (in at least three jurisdictions across the USA in which I personally have worked), there are a lot of people who move outside of city or county lines, just so they don’t have to pay those property taxes, and then throw tantrums when they don’t get the services those taxes pay for.

    (The other reason is because most public libraries provide internet services, and Congress in their infinite wisdom has decided that if libraries want to receive slightly discounted internet access, we have to provide copious PROOF that we aren’t possibly exposing liddle kiddies’ innocent eyeballs to nekkid boobies or chicken breast recipes etc.)

    However, I have never ever worked in a public library that demands anyone present a library card in order to do anything.  Sure, it makes things easier if you’ve got it;  but if you just tell me your card number (lots of people have them memorized), or show me some other ID, or tell me your name and birthday, or otherwise convince me* that you’re the person who will receive the bill if the books never come back.

    Because that’s what “mutuality” is all about.  The people in my town give us a (tiny fraction of) their tax money, on the theory that we will leverage it into obtaining much more books and movies and music and databases for everybody to share than any individual can obtain on zir own.  We, in turn, will maintain all that material and share it out on the theory that anybody who uses it will take good care of it and bring it back when zie are done. 

    So, what in any of this situation is comparable to voting?  Except that some people want to game the system to preventother people from choosing and thinking things that the first group doesn’t like?

    *I have been “convinced” by a child’s avowal that “Yep, that’s my friend’s mommy.”  And I’m a hard-ass compared to most librarians.

  • P J Evans

     I spent a lot of time in the back room at the library where I was living in West Texas. And I still give them books. (Also, I remember the number on the first library card I had, which I got in first grade and used for ten years. It was only four digits.)

  • AnonymousSam

    The library nearby requires me to have a state ID, which I can only get via proof of identity, so indirectly, I do need to prove my identity to the library. It’s rather frustrating, since I can’t get a state ID, either.

  • Dash1

    Alas, the analogical reasoning is not strong with aunursa, so, on behalf of Cal grads everywhere who are suddenly reconsidering their planned gifts to Alma Mater on the grounds that the Philosophy Department isn’t doing its job, I will point out that registering to vote is like getting your library card. You supply the necessary information. Once you have the library card, you’re in the position of the person who is on the voter rolls. You don’t then have to continually prove your residence and identity–you just present your library card. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TXM4C2FWJJMAKHHB5XKRSD7GOE Cheryl

    If the majority of biblical scriptures display gross hatred of women, why does it matter that a few scriptures don’t?  If the majority of christians continually display hatred towards women, does it really matter what the bible says at all?

  • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

    Hey, Fred! Thanks for the shout-out. 

    Just a quick note: My target audience for the series is evangelicals (I know, I know, but they’re my people for better or worse) who are on the fence about complementarianism/egalitarianism. I kept getting messages from people who felt drawn toward equality but had no idea how to articulate it or reconcile it with their views on scripture, etc. So I’m not trying to convince the complementarians – I can’t! I’m a freakin’ chic! they won’t listen to me! – just trying to help those who want to “cross over”  do so. (I sound like that dude that talks to dead people. )

    The good news: I’ve heard from quite a few people – more than I ever expected – that the series changed their minds. It’s not a massive change, but it’s a few more people who are more likely to encourage their daughters to go to seminary, more likely to think of their spouse as their partner rather than their subordinate, and less likely to walk out on a woman who is preaching on a Sunday morning. 

    So, all in all, a win. 

    …Even if it’s happening at the “kids’ table.”  :-) 

  • Tonio

    Glad to see Rachel Held Evans posting here.

    Beyond my moral objections to complimentarianism,  it really comes across as an elaborate parody, like Poe’s Law in reverse. The idea that someone would actually “walk out on a woman who is preaching on a Sunday morning” sounds too extreme to be real.

    In college, a Jewish roommate mentioned to me that both his sisters had arranged marriages, and in my social ineptness, I asked how could the family in good conscience make the daughters do that. His response? “Women have no rights.” From his tone, I couldn’t tell if he was serious or if he was teasing me. Then and now,  I have difficultly imagine anyone seriously believing that who isn’t an outright monster who enjoys torturing children.

  • malpollyon

    Swbarnes2, what you “see here” is entirely unconnected with what other parties to the conversation have been saying. Perhaps if you spent more time listening and less tilting at your own imaginary windmills you might learn something.

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    As a person who participated in the “Week of Mutuality” effort, I understand the frustration with the never-ending cycle, and largely agree with Fred’s comments about the cause and nature of that cycle.

    However, I ultimately cannot agree with his conclusion that, because it is a never-ending cycle, the only solution is to say “I’m done arguing for my (or, in this case, women’s) place” and to move to another table. This would mean that change within existing denominations could never take place. And although change has been undeniably and inexcusably slow, we now live in an era where many denominations that previously denied women the right to certain ministerial roles now have that right. Change has occured. We did not all have to form new denominations for this to take place.

    Indeed, as often as not, we have sent those more traditional believers packing, feeling that they must form a new denomination, because they can no longer accept what has happened in the existing one.

    The fight has indeed been long. Far too long. But it is by no means hopeless.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    One of the things I find very helpful about the Bible is that I disagree with bits of it.

    If I had a holy book I totally agreed with, I would give in to my natural smugness, and probably never emerge.  But because I both take it seriously and disagree with it, I have to constantly question my assumptions and figure out what I really think. That’s extremely helpful.


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