Weekly Meanderings, 2 June 2018

Weekly Meanderings, 2 June 2018 June 2, 2018

Welp, not many links this week but they are worthy of serious reading and discussion.

Beth Allison Barr’s confession:

I realize that I bear even greater responsibility because I knew complementarian theology was wrong. As I have been writing for several weeks now, complementarian theology is based on a handful of verses which have become a lens for understanding all of the Bible.  There is so much textual and historical evidence that counterscomplementarian theology. Sometimes I am dumbfounded that this is a battle women are still fighting.  But then I remember that we live in a sinful world and women have been fighting against patriarchy and misogyny from literally the beginning of civilization. Just read some of the ancient texts I regularly use in my World History courses—like the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Ramayana—and you will immediately see what I mean. As Christians we are called to be different from the world. Yet we are so much like the world in which we live, including our treatment of women. Ironically, complementarian theology claims it is defending a plain and natural interpretation of the Bible. Really it is defending an interpretation of the Bible that has been corrupted by our sinful human drive to dominate others and build hierarchies of power and oppression. I can’t think of anything less Christ-like than power hierarchies……

So why did I stay in complementarian churches for so long?  Because I was comfortable there. I really thought I could make a difference. I feared my husband losing his job. I loved (and still love) the youth we served. So for the sake of the youth, for the sake of the difference my husband made in his job, for the sake of financial security, for the sake of our friends whom we had loved, laughed, and lived life together, for the sake of our comfort, for the sake of protecting others, I chose to stay silent. [HT: JS]

Blog post of the week, Richard Beck on Al Mohler, Paige Patterson and complementarianism:

In short, Mohler seems genuinely anguished and searching for answers, but he can’t offer an accurate diagnosis of what went wrong. He seems legitimately perplexed. He says nothing beyond the same old, same old: Men are in charge, but they shouldn’t abuse the women under their leadership.

But clearly, that’s been a disaster.

And it’s not really hard to see why. I think the problem evangelicals are having here is the same problem they always have. They only look at the Bible and they ignore human experience. Evangelicals always make man serve the Sabbath, rather than having the Sabbath serve man. In this instance, the Sabbath is “God’s plan for marriage and the church,” and men and women must conform to that plan. Come hell or high water. Well, they’ve found hell and high water.

Evangelicals obsess over establishing “God’s plan” over the genders and routinely fail to attend to the raw material they are plugging into that plan. Mohler is right to raise questions about the theology, but that’s only half the equation. It’s complementarian theology combined with human nature that’s the problem.

Human beings are corrupted by power asymmetries. Based on his famous Stanford Prison Study, Philip Zimbardo has called this “the Lucifer Effect.” Psychologically, power has been shown to decrease inhibition, which means that when we have power we’re more prone to act out, sexually and/or aggressively.

Add to this the observation that psychological studies, along with criminal statistics, indicate that men are prone to aggression and violence, physical and sexual.

An irony here is that many evangelicals admit all this, that men have a natural, durable “nature” characterized by dominance and aggression, the characteristics that make men great leaders and warriors. That’s the positive spin on those traits. But the darker side of those traits are a proneness to violence and abuse.

I say this is an irony because evangelicals describe men as being “naturally” wired for dominance and aggression. And then they espouse a model of gender relations that gives power to the gender characterized by dominance and aggression. And then they express surprise that this arrangement didn’t work out so well.

Given their view of the genders, let me express the irony of the evangelical position this way. Complementarianism isn’t a problem because there are no differences between the genders. Complementarianism is a problem because there are differences between the genders.

Here’s an analogy for complementarianism’s mistake. Imagine a church full of people, most have no tendency toward addiction, but in this church are three other groups. First, there is group of recovering alcoholics. Second, there is a group that is prone to alcoholism. Third, there is group of actual, practicing alcoholics. And then imagine, because of how you read the Bible, that you believe it is God’s plan for human flourishing for everyone in the church to drink a glass of whiskey everyday. And then imagine expressing shock when a lot of these people fall into, or back into, addiction.

Listen, at this point in the post, I understand if you’re a reader who is a little tired of this particular culture war battle. I, too, get a little tired of all the “f**k the patriarchy” talk, and I’ve been beaten up for being a “problematic” ally.

But seriously, if you don’t think the mistreatment of women is the number one issue facing the moral witness of men–and not as a contemporary culture war issue, but as a demonic shadow that has haunted us for millennia–I just don’t know what to say to you. Buckle up, buttercup. I think sin manifests in men in just this way.

A theological and biblical way to say all this is that men’s dominance over women is a part of the Fall’s curse upon humanity. The wound of sin upon gender relations is clear in Genesis 3: “He will rule over you.”

So if that’s a part of the curse, why do evangelicals think that building the curse into the system–gender subordination–is going to produce anything other than cursed outcomes?

News flash: The curse isn’t a feature, it’s a bug.

Summarizing, this isn’t rocket science: If you preach gender subordination you’re going to have #MeToo. Power reduces inhibitions, and men have a suite of impulses that increases the likelihood of harassment and abuse. And seriously, can you doubt this? Have you not learned something from #MeToo and #ChurchToo? Have you not had conversations with the women in your workplace? Have you not looked at the sex trafficking statistics? The statistics on rape and domestic abuse, throughout history and worldwide? There are millions of women being abused or trafficked right now in the world. Millions. And if you refuse to own that fact or be sobered by it for fear of man-shaming, I don’t know what to tell you.

But again, the pushback will be, but if men were godly this would not happen. But isn’t that the big blindspot here? “If men were godly…”

That “if” is a whopper. That “if” is dangerous. Seriously? You’re going to make the safety of women a cross-your-fingers, let’s hope for the best, contingency? A big fat “if” built atop a foundation of total depravity (as you believe to be the case)? And you are surprised this didn’t go well?

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