The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood–Chapter 6

What is Submission by Christina Fox

Mrs. Fox admits that her childhood was full of verbal abuse (put downs, anger, threats, rejection, and fear) and that this left her with a very negative reaction to marital submission. The only way I can think of to connect marital submission to this abuse is if her parents were actively linking the two. Few secular couples ever connect the idea of submission with marriage unless they’re into BDSM, which is a very different kettle of fish.

When a parent is abusing their spouse or child, the words that are usually used (based on what I’ve heard friends describing in their household) are “you should do what I say, because I’m in charge”. Or, “You owe me.” The abuse doesn’t get linked to submission directly unless you happen to look in a dictionary. And at that point, it’s still viewed as an expectation of an abuser, not as an expectation of a spouse.

So, I can completely understand where Mrs. Fox would be skittish about a potential husband turning abusive, but I think that the only way for her to mentally connect biblical submission in marriage to marital abuse is if her parents were using the Bible to threaten her into submitting to the abuse. In this way, a bastardization of the Bible’s view of submission is used to control the child, which seems to me to be the place that Mrs. Fox is coming from.

I took a quick peek at her website and scanned her writing to see if any posts jumped out at me as being specifically about her upbringing. None caught my attention, so until further notice, I will assume that I’m correct that her parents directly linked Biblical submission to the abuse she suffered.

The definition she’s using for submission, which I’m very comfortable agreeing with since it doesn’t change my opinion on submission comes from John Piper:

“the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. It’s the disposition to follow a husband’s authority and an inclination to yield to his leadership.”

Apparently by using the above definition whenever submission is used by Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33 is supposed to show that submission isn’t the equivalent of abuse. It apparently shows that a woman submitting to her husband is no different from a church submitting to God/Jesus.

This is supposedly beautiful.

There is a section on what submission isn’t. Essentially, Biblical submission is neither a conduit for abuse nor is a wife supposed to blindly submit to her husband because Christ is ultimately her guiding force.

But the last section on “Marriage and the Gospel” seals the fate of submission:

“When we struggle in our God-given roles in marriage, it is the result of sin.”

Sigh. Let me once again explain how an egalitarian marriage works, in terms maybe a woman like Mrs. Fox can understand:

I submit to my husband. And he submits to me. Just like you try to say that the bible encourages.

The difference is that our “submission” isn’t a mandate, while, however much you try to spin it otherwise, submission is a mandate in the Bible. How do I know that submission is mandated in the Bible? That quote about how all troubles in a marriage are caused by sin. Plus, Piper says that submission is a “divine calling of a wife” so if a woman doesn’t submit, she risks not fulfilling her divine calling.

When me and my husband “submit” to each other, all it is is us doing each other favors without any obligation. He operates on a different schedule than me, so there are many nights when I’m eating dinner and he’s not hungry. Later, he may ask me to make him mac-n-cheese or something else quick because he’s useless in the kitchen. I really don’t mind doing these things for him because I care about him and want to make sure that he eats something with a semblance of nutrition rather than just a bag of Frito’s. However, we have an agreement that the kitchen closes at 9 pm unless I’m unusually awake.

A husband who expects his wife to submit would want a fully home-cooked meal on his schedule, without any regard to whatever else she’s doing.

Remember: “When we struggle in our God-given roles in marriage, it is the result of sin.” Sins by whom?

What happens when a husband expects his wife to always submit and she has to say “sorry, dear, I’m too tired to cook you a 3 course meal at 2 am”? To what extent is her refusal to cook for him a sin? That is her “God-given role” in the marriage, isn’t it? Obviously, the question is whether a Biblical husband  would even think about asking for a 3 course meal at 2 am. But if he’s working on some huge project that is supposed to revolutionize the world, it’s quite possible that he might.

Of course, a wife may be very happy to complete this task for her husband and that is her choice. But the real debate over submission isn’t about wives “serving” their husbands or husbands “serving” their wives: it’s about what happens when one or the other decides that they’re not in the mood for whatever reason to comply with a specific request.

To ever say NO to a spouse seems to be a direct refusal to be submissive. Biblical submission is always described as beautiful because a spouse would NEVER request something of their spouse that they know the spouse doesn’t want to do. But that is not how reality works:

I have a higher sex drive than my husband. I enjoy having sex. However, I work 40 hours a week and most nights I’m half asleep by 9 pm. When he is interested in sex, it’s usually not until 11 pm. So yes, there are plenty of nights when I’m already asleep when he comes to bed wanting to have sex and yes, I reject him.  Does he get all upset about this? No. Does he make an effort to join me in bed earlier? Not usually, hahaha. His loss.

Every article I’ve ever read a Christian woman write about any kind of marital submission has never included any description of what to do when a wife doesn’t want to submit. This book says that abuse isn’t Christlike, but doesn’t tell a woman what rights she has to say NO.

….

My husband just got home from a trip to the store and bringing me a sub for dinner. We ended up having a bit of an argument/debate because he said in passing to his buddy on the phone while getting the sub that a woman who was out there should put some more clothes on. This happens to be one of my soapboxes (obviously) so I tried to explain to him that while I agree with the statement at face value (no one really wants to see all that), the reason it offends me is that despite my not wanting to see a woman or man’s body all hanging out, it is her right to wear whatever she damn well pleases and it hurts society to sum up such an interaction with “she should put more clothes on” as though it’s her fault should anything happen to her. My point is entirely that the party line is “blame the girl” and that we as a society would do better to leave the comments about the girl alone and instead focus on statements about boys and how they should respect women. Changing the party line would do more to change society than continuing to have toss away statements that ultimately do nothing.

Of course, my husband, as well meaning as he is, feels that conversations of this nature are an attack on him as an individual instead of learning that he can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. He has had too many experiences with women getting him in trouble for their lies, so his gut reaction to my arguments is that I’m automatically taking women’s side rather than seeing “both sides of the issue”. Truthfully, it all comes down to him arguing about Oranges (that there are 3 sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth and that no one deserves to have blind acceptance of their story) and I’m arguing about Apples (that it hurts women (and men) to always make the conversation about what a women is wearing or doing and that we as a society can do better if we make the automatic statements into “look at that woman and how she has the absolute right to wear whatever she wants without being touched” instead of “if she goes walking around like that in the wrong neighborhood she’ll get raped”–one statement teaches boys to respect women, the other tells boys that women only deserve respect when they’re wearing respectable clothes).

I still haven’t figured out how to explain to him that I’m not the only one who has a visceral reaction to certain triggers. He seems oblivious to the fact that he automatically reacts negatively to these discussions, though he seems well aware of my triggers. But that’s a discussion for another day :-).

Anyway, in my attempt to explain to him that I’m not anti-men, but anti-party line about this issue (and that it’s not his fault that he’s been well trained by society to spew the usual lines about women being the problem) I pulled this paragraph from Lori Anderson’s “The Transformed Wife” to show him that it’s not just men who spew the party lines:

Young women are encouraged to have “free sex” and pursue higher education and careers instead of getting married, bearing children, and guiding their homes. They are told to send their children to daycare and public schooling instead of raising them in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord and yes, having boundaries for them, disciplining, and training them. They are encouraged to divorce their husbands when they aren’t happy instead of being covenant keepers until death do they part. They are sold a bill of goods in buying provocative clothing to cause men to lust instead of dressing modestly and respecting themselves and the men around them enough to cover up.

I added the emphasis for the sentence that sounded most like what he’d been trying to say in his defense. About how it’s women and how they dress that causes men to lust and if women respected men, they would cover themselves up. I don’t know what he thought of it because he didn’t respond, but I’m hoping it’s something he’ll think about.

Anyway, while scrolling through Lori’s blog posts on feminism to find an example to use for my husband (it, unfortunately, wasn’t hard to locate), I found this gem which seems very appropriate for use on this post about submission:

“When you heard many sermons on how women submit to husbands but zero on how husbands lay down their life for wife.” I have never heard a sermon from the pulpit of any church I have attended in my 58 years that teach women to submit to their husbands. In fact, there are few women preachers/teachers/writers/bloggers who even teach it. Instead of searching out Scripture for how they are to live their lives, they prefer to hear how their husbands should treat them instead. These women are either unbelievers or baby Christians because those who are mature in the faith examine themselves to see how they can become more like Christ. They understand that they will only have to answer for themselves one day instead of constantly pointing their finger at their husband. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith(2 Corinthians 13:5).

This is from Lori’s blog post about Misogyny in the Church, which apparently she thinks is a feminist delusion. According to her, telling a young girl that she can’t be president is simply sharing that God’s plan for women is for women to be wives and mothers and to be content to stay at home.

Anyway, I can totally believe that women like Lori aren’t hearing their pastors specifically teaching women to submit, but then, Lori makes it clear that she’s not a preacher because she’s a woman and therefore isn’t Biblically allowed to preach. What she refuses to believe is that she is one of the people who is teaching women that they should submit to their husbands. I don’t know whether she’d be proud of the fact that she has so much power over women or shamed because women aren’t supposed to overshadow men. In any case, here’s Lori’s very blatant post on the submission that she’s never heard preached anywhere in any church she’s ever attended. I think me and Lori have very different definitions of preaching.

Urgh. I was scrolling through other recent posts by Lori and apparently she has a big problem with young women not being taught to submit to their husbands:

“God is clear in His Word what older women are to teach younger women. They desperately need to be learning to submit to their husbands, how to properly discipline their children, to be sober, discreet, modest, chaste, good, and keepers at home since many younger women who claim to be Christians don’t look or act any differently than worldly women.”

Maybe Lori should get ordained so that she can have a real pulpit to preach from instead of a blog that only masochists read. Then she could teach even more women…

Before my husband got home and caused me to look at Lori’s blog, I’d already found this post where Michelle Duggar offers advice to newlywed women about always being sexually available to their husbands because that’s the one thing that sets a wife apart form any other woman in the world, supposedly. If you remember where I was before my husband got home and distracted me, I’d just explained how being in an egalitarian marriage doesn’t mean that my husband and I don’t “submit” to each other in an appropriate manner (though we’d use a better term like loving each other and showing that affection through our actions), but that because we’re in an egalitarian marriage, there’s no obligation to never say NO.

————————————————————————————–

By the way, I’ve loaded up Lori’s post on Misogyny in Church on my tablet because I’d like my husband to read it. Or I may just read out the parts that he most needs to hear because the vertigo makes his eyes jump around, which makes reading difficult and the stroke that affected his left side has caused him to be slower at comprehending what he reads/hears–he get’s stuck on certain ideas easily, which is why we so often are arguing Oranges and Apples :-). It’s not because he’s a closet misogynist, no matter how much it sounds that way; he’s just had the party line ingrained in him for a long time because he’s of a certain generation, plus his own experiences, and then the stroke makes it harder for him to switch gears quickly. I think that offering him more female anti-feminist voices will help him understand that I’m not attacking men specifically, but society as a whole. Women are just as much to blame for rape culture as men, since I fully blame mothers and fathers for not teaching their sons to respect women rather than blaming mothers and fathers for not teaching their daughters to dress modestly.


Argh! I just checked Glow, my fertility tracker for our natural family planning (because I don’t want the hormones from birth control) to see where I am in my cycle because arguments don’t stop our sex-life, haha. Anyway, Glow has a daily community poll and today’s question is “Is your relationship an equal partnership?” and I generally expected the spread of answers that I’m looking at: 70.9% of women (I assume that most users of Glow are women) are in an equal relationship and happy about it and 17.8% of women aren’t in an equal relationship, but want to be (they really should find a better significant other). I think it’s sad that 10.3% of women aren’t in an equal relationship and think that that’s okay (they also deserve better), but the fact that 1.1% of women ARE in an equal relationship and don’t like it, is the worst statistic! What have these poor women been taught that they want their significant other to quit treating them like an equal?

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