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Archive for February, 2012

This post begins with a question:

Are the struggles Christian men have with lust(the objectification of women) related to the teaching on the submission of Christian women?

I believe these issues are related.  Here are some ideas that tie these issues together(in my opinion):

Beliefs about women in the early church ~

~”From within the then reigning viewpoint of Greek philosophy, males were assumed to be connected with the superior ‘mind'(spirituality) while females were connected with the assumed inferior ‘body'(carnal lust).  Thus Origen ‘taught that women are more closely connected to the flesh than men and thus not as spiritual,’ and Augustine ‘associates women with the evil flesh that must be controlled by the spirit, which he believed was superior in men.'[19]  Thus the ‘goal of salvation was to free the pure soul from the evil material body.'[20]….Flowing from this, female sexuality came to be viewed as ‘responsible for the Fall of creation and the descent of man’s soul into perdition.'[23] Viewing women with disdain as the conduits for sin led of necessity to their subordination to males.”

~ page 54-55 of “What’s With Paul and Women” by Jon Zens

[19]  Jann A. Clanton, In Whose Image?  God & Gender, Crossroad, 1991, p.41.  “Underlying the Victorian notion of ladies’ frailty was an ancient conceptualization of the female that entered European scholastic tradition with the Greeks,” and then “received the stamp of Christian orthodoxy when Thomas Aquinas accepted the Aristotelian position” (Alice B. Kehoe, “The Shackles of Tradition,” The Hidden Half: Studies of Plains Indian Women, P. Albers & B. Medicine, eds., University Press of America, 1983, pp. 55-57).

[20]  Bussert, p.7.

[23]  Bussert, p. 7.

In light of the above paragraph, let’s consider what the Bible says about submission…

“…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  Husbands, love your wife, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father  and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” ~ Ephesians 5:21-32, ESV

The above passage in Ephesians has been used by some Christians in the past(and present) to illustrate a Divine Hierarchy in which the husband is a leader and the wife submits to his leadership.  I point out that this passage does say that a wife should submit to her husband, but it does not say her husband should lead her.  The husband is the “head” of his wife. How does he perform this responsibility?  By loving his wife, giving himself up for her, sanctifying her, cleansing her, loving her as himself, and loving her as his own body…there is no use of the word authority or leader in this passage.  (Christ is our authority, of course, but in this passage, I think the point is to show the unbreakable connection between Christ and the Church, not how Christ is our leader.)  Using Christ as the head of the church is a metaphor for the deep connection between the husband and wife; we are one flesh, and separating the two is extremely painful.  (For anyone who believes that the husband should perform his duty as leader by having the final say in decision-making, please refer to 1 Corinthians 7:1-5.)

My point is that men and women, husbands and wives, believers and other believers, are to submit to one another, prefer others’ interests to their own(Philippians 2:4), and in general serve one another in the name of Christ.  Could the teaching of the unique(and I believe wrong) submission of “wives only” be demeaning to women, with one result being that men do not respect women as people, resulting in their objectification?  The Christian church has a long history of devaluing women, due to their “carnal nature”.   In our egalitarian culture, women have the freedom and liberty to choose what they want to do with their lives, but they are still being devalued by the media industry by being portrayed as body parts and not people. Could this be a result of the idea that women are to be submissive, that we are somehow here for men’s pleasure and service?  The Church used to be very influential, and had an enormous impact on culture, the legacy of which can be seen in our culture today.  I believe this legacy can be tied to the objectification of women in our society today, in the church and the secular world.

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Harriet Tubman

I’ve been reading “Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman” by Dorothy Sterling to my children for the past few weeks.  A post in her honor is timely in light of February being Black History Month.

Here’s an excerpt from the book describing how many times Harriet made the journey from the North(in the U.S. and later Canada) to the Southern United States on her mission to free slaves:

Harriet crossed the line dividing the free states from the slave states six times, twelve times, eighteen times, and the count of the men and women and children she led to the North ran into the hundreds.  From Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, Americans knew of her plodding feet.  They talked of her in the swamps of Virginia and the blue hills of Kentucky, and in Maryland’s rolling fields.  To the slaves, she became known as “Moses,” and the stories about her became legends.

Did you read that?  She led hundreds of slaves to freedom…hundreds!  And she didn’t drive them across the border in her SUV.  She walked most of the time, staying hidden from the countless men who were hunting her.  She trudged through swamps, swam across rivers.  This was one tough lady.  This afternoon I found myself pondering her heroism,  and wondered what her life must have been like.  She decided at a young age that she was going to escape slavery, and when the opportunity came, she did it.  Once she achieved safety, she didn’t stop.  I would’ve considered myself lucky to be alive and settled into a new, safe lifestyle.  Not Harriet.  She kept going back for her family members, then to help more slaves get free.  Wow.  That’s pretty amazing.

So what’s the point of writing  about this on a blog about body image?  While reading the above paragraphs, were you wondering what Harriet looked like?  Were you concerned about the size of her arms, her thighs, her butt?  I doubt it.  What did Harriet look like?  We don’t think about it much, because it doesn’t matter.  We remember her for the extraordinary things she did.  It’s been more than one hundred years since Harriet Tubman took a stand against injustice, and people are still talking about her heroic actions and solid character.

In our media saturated culture, it’s really difficult to ignore the voices telling us the most important thing about being a woman is how we look.  It’s a lie that takes effort to fight against.  It helps me to remind myself daily that God and other people care about and will remember me for my character, and that they don’t really care about my looks.  Folks like Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry look beautiful now, but what will they be like in twenty or forty years?  Will people remember much about them?  What are they admired for now besides their looks and maybe a few catchy(and meaningless) pop songs?  I know I want much more for my life, and my children’s lives.

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