Tag Archive | marriage

Love, Marriage, and Happiness

By Musaromana (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I was displeased to see that this dreadful thing, Marriage Isn’t for You, is making the rounds.  This is one of those overly-chipper-but-somewhat-nebulous posts that’s hard to disagree with on the surface, mostly due to its lack of any depth.  I mean, how many of us haven’t been selfish or been hurt by someone else who was being selfish?  And really, isn’t there some truth to the fact that marriage isn’t a solo pursuit?  So what’s wrong with this article?

For starters, I don’t really want marriage “advice” from someone more than ten years younger who has a fraction the time put into his marriage that I have.  I mean, I’m certainly willing to listen to people younger and less experienced than I am (provided they aren’t saying utterly stupid things).  Naturally, I do prefer that the person offering their expertise have more knowledge of a subject than I do.  I’m perfectly fine with the fact that my gynecologist, for example, is eight years younger than I am.  She’s been to medical school; I have not.  So when she does an exam, I’m not all like, “Hey, are you sure you’re doing that right?”  If I’m getting marriage advice, I don’t want it second-hand filtered through a guy who’s barely past his honeymoon.  That’s not to say that newlyweds and young adults have nothing to offer.  But if you’re going to tell people what to do, you’d better be able to back that up with some credentials, or people with a lot more experience are going to tell you you’re full of it.

Anyway, aside from Seth Adam Smith’s adorkable lack of real-life experience, I just can’t get behind his words.  In particular, this stood out to me:

No, a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love–their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?” while Love asks, “What can I give?”

Right.  Because 1. there’s such a thing as a “true marriage” (as opposed to all those fake ones going on?  I dunno); and 2. it’s not at all co-dependently creepy to fixate entirely on the needs of someone else.  It’s possibly his use of “never” here that strikes me the wrong way, but there’s something deeply obsessive and weird underneath those words.

Seth follows that up nicely with a vague story about how he was being “selfish” and it caused major problems.  I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.  It could have been anything at all, from not pulling his weight in household chores to spending fifteen hours a week watching Internet porn.  He gives no indication about what made him so utterly, appallingly selfish, nor why his wife had to “soothe his soul.”  He uses strange, vaguely religious terms (his heart was “callous” and “hard”) to not really tell us anything.  He’s not clear on what his wife actually did, either.  We know she was “soothing,” but what is that?  Like ointment?

After this cryptic story, Seth assures us that marriage is about family.  Gee, thanks for that–I wasn’t clear.  I thought maybe marriage was like a corporate merger only with sex.  Actually, I’ll bet some corporate mergers also involve sex, so it’s probably not that different.  Oh, wait . . . I guess a lot of us have been confused about it; thanks, Seth, for clearing that up!

At the end, we get the lovely sentiment that the more we give, the more we receive.  Which is ironic, since Seth just spent a whole page detailing why marriage isn’t about us.  So why should we care if we get anything in return?  I mean, it’s not about meeeeeeee!  He’s not forthcoming on the details of what the payoff is, either.  Do we get the satisfaction of a job well done?  A cookie for effort from the spouse for not being a jerk?  Or is this supposed to be like, “You live for me, I’ll live for you, we’ll both be happy” kind of a thing?  I’m also not getting where the love from “thousands” of other people comes into play here.  It sounds more like Seth just didn’t know how to finish his article so he gave it the Hollywood extended ending treatment–not much to add to the story, but aren’t the special effects cool?

Anyway, it’s not that I want to advocate for being a total ass to your spouse.  Of course being completely self-centered is a terrible way to treat people.  But that seems like common sense, not something to turn into your life’s Guiding Principle or whatever.  It really is okay to want to be happy.  There is nothing wrong with expecting your relationships to be mutually satisfying.  If my husband didn’t make me happy, I wouldn’t have married him.  If I didn’t enjoy my friendships, I wouldn’t hang out with those people.  Do I operate based solely on what’s going to please me?  No, but neither do I operate solely on what’s going to please someone else.

Strangely, in telling us this story, Seth somehow manages to undermine his point–that marriage isn’t about us–by making it entirely about him.  I’m going to give him a few years to figure out that there’s a happy medium between expecting relationships to feed you and expecting to meet others’ needs to the exclusion of your own.  Hopefully by that point, he will have a story or two about what he’s done for his wife, rather than what she’s done for him.

The opposite of Christian

Félix Vallotton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I should be doing some other writing, including getting around to that “words mean things” post I’ve been wanting to write.  But a couple of things I read earlier made me think of something, and when an idea pops into my head, it won’t let go until I get it out.  Today’s big idea: The opposite of Christian is not “selfish jerk.”

This morning, I read a post that reminded me of the way we try to put people in boxes labeled, “Christian, moral” and “Non-Christian, immoral.”  It made me feel strange, like something I’d read before only with different words.  Shaming, harmful words.  While I get it that sex wasn’t the whole point, it still made me rage.  It made me want to ask “but what about…” questions.

This, in particular, pushed my buttons:

The Christian view says sex is a sacred, initmate act between two people, the ultimate place of vulnerability, and is better enjoyed within the context of the marriage covenant, of complete trust, honesty and commitment.

The secular view says we should be free to have sex with whoever we want, whenever we want, however we want, as long as it’s ethical, legal, consensual and doesn’t hurt anyone. It comes from the view that we make our own choices and we should be able to have sex with whoever we want, whenever we want, within the obvious boundaries of ethics, morality and law.

But going deeper, it actually comes from a view of the world which says it’s all about us.

Our enjoyment, our good, comes before anything else. And all the good things should be enjoyed now. Anything which restricts our decisions, or tells us to live in a way we’re not comfortable with, is limiting. We make our own decisions, and if it feels good and it’s legal and morally good, then we should be free to do it.

No. That is not the “secular” view.  The opposite of the “Christian” view (which I would argue is better called the “conservative Christian view”) is most definitely not “it’s all about me.”

Are there people who operate from the perspective that it’s all about them?  Sure.  Those people take what they want, when they want it, and others don’t matter to them.  But that’s not split between Christians and non-Christians.  It’s not even split between those who want to wait and those who don’t .  It’s split between nice people and assholes.

The idea that waiting is unselfish and not waiting is self-centered denies some pretty basic, important truths.  First, it implies that marriage means trust and commitment.  People get married for all sorts of reasons, including some who get married because they are forbidden to have sex otherwise.  Lots and lots of married people don’t have trust or commitment.  Yet when they have sex, it’s sacred because the state issued them a piece of paper and a minister signed it?  What an odd way to look at things.  If trust and commitment are required, there are plenty of married couples that should probably not be morally allowed to have sex.

Second, it implies that being unmarried means there isn’t trust or commitment.  Right there, that rules out anyone living in a state where they can’t legally get married.  (Of course, if one believes same-sex relationships are a sin, then I guess that person would say it doesn’t matter whether they can legally wed or not.)  It also suggests unmarried people are only having sex because they don’t have the self-control to wait til marriage to have orgasms.  I think it’s a pretty bold leap to decide we know what motivations a person has for sexual intimacy and whether or not their relationship includes trust and commitment.

Third, it ignores the reality that selfish sex can occur within a marriage, too.  Some people firmly believe they have the right to someone else’s body once they are married.  Some pastors (ahem) even teach that.  I would rather that two unmarried people have sex that honors one another’s autonomy than that two married people treat each other’s bodies with disrespect.

Fourth, it makes sex into something it isn’t (and shouldn’t be).  Sex, in conservative Christian circles, has taken on meaning and importance that it shouldn’t have.  It has become something considered “sacred,” and therefore it can be used to control others, either by restricting it or by using it against them.  I don’t see sex as “the ultimate place of vulnerability” between two people.  I’ve felt far more naked and exposed when revealing my innermost thoughts than when I’m literally naked and exposing my vagina.  The way we talk about sex should not turn it into something emotionally and physically terrifying.

I wish that it were as simple as married sex = good, unmarried sex = bad, but it isn’t.  Intimacy is so much more complex than that, with all the intricacies of the lives we’ve lived and the experiences we’ve had built into it.  The way to create a healthy sexual ethic, Christian or otherwise, isn’t to draw lines based on perceived motives or what we think is or isn’t part of a relationship.  I’m not suggesting that Christians should necessarily drop the idea that intimacy is best within marriage–it may very well be the case, at least for some people.  But we could certainly learn a thing or two from an ethic that isn’t fixated on the magic moment of marriage.  Doing what’s best for our bodies, giving and receiving consent, feeling good, doing no harm, and making our own choices should always be part of healthy sex, regardless of when it occurs.*

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*One might argue that those things are all part of trust, honesty, and commitment, I suppose, but one cannot argue that those things are an automatic part of marriage.  Too many married people–yes, lots of them Christians–are not experiencing any of those things.

Notable News: Week of August 17-23, 2013

Here we are at the close of another week.  It’s been a busy one for me, with my volunteer work at the kids’ last summer camp of the season.  I can’t believe that school is just around the corner for us.  Two weeks from today, my kids will be finishing their first week of classes.  The summer has flown by.  Meanwhile, I’m trying some new things in my life outside of blogging.  I’m looking forward to new challenges and opportunities.

This week, there have been some great posts.  Here are some of my favorites:

1. Religious privilege

This is a great summary of the privileges enjoyed (often unawares) by most Christians (other than those considered too “fringe”).  Because I still identify as Christian (even if I don’t always know how to define that, even for myself), I have definitely experienced many of the things on the list.  Although I’ve done well as an ally to people of other faiths in some ways, there are places where I can improve.

2. Love and Marriage

This story from Lana Hobbs is incredibly moving.  I’m not posting it here in order to “prove” to anyone that courtship works.  I’m posting it because so often lately, I read black-and-white pronouncements without any sense of the varied experiences of real people.  Lana’s story is one of hope in which despite her feelings about the process, she and her husband value and affirm each other.  There is rich beauty in that.

3. Leaps of Faith

I wish erinrebecca a blessed, hopeful journey this weekend in coming out to her parents.  I don’t have any special words of wisdom or deep, meaningful prayers to offer.  All I have to give is support from one writer to another, a thin line of Internet hope, and an affirmation of God’s love and mercy.  Grace and peace be with you as you go.

4. Jesus’ Gag Reflex

One of many fine responses to the gag-reflex-worthy poo fest that was Thabiti Anyabwile’s dreadful Gospel Coalition article.

5. More Gag Reflexes

And, of course, this one.  A friend of mine made a similar comment about his gag reflex for het sex.  Gee, thanks, guys–you’ve cleared things up for me.  Now I know I’m the one sinning because I’ve tripped your gag reflex!

6. Misogyny of the Week

I honestly find purity, modesty, and “courtship” culture kind of trips my gag reflex.  I’m glad my parents didn’t encourage any of this.  I’m also glad I married a man who even thought it was weird to ask my parents for permission to marry me.  After reading this dreadful post, I’m currently glad I will never have reason to allow this man to counsel either of my children.  I’m still laughing about how he calls this post “PG-13.”

7. Virgin Sacrifice

I’m glad I wasn’t drinking hot coffee when I read this.  Also, I misread “virgins” as “vaginas,”  to which my brain helpfully supplied, “That too.”

8. Christian Music

Apparently they meant “Grew Up A Christian Music Fan After 1992,” as I didn’t relate to most of this.  But I was a Christian music fan in the late 80s-early 90s, and I was one of those die-hards who refused to listen to secular music.  Other than the Billy Joel I used to sneak in.  And whatever my sisters happened to be listening to.  And U2 after they weren’t Christian anymore.  And Metallica.  And REM.  And…oh.  Never mind.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  See you on Monday.

A love letter

Image courtesy of jillstein.org

I had something else in mind to write for today, but, as sometimes happens, things changed.  Today, I’m writing a love letter to my friends and family.

Dear Ones,

I was just about to write my blog post when I happened to get distracted by Facebook (I know you’re all shocked by this).  It took me a minute, and then I saw that my timeline was exploding with the news that DOMA is dead.  I can’t tell you how happy this makes me and how proud I am of all the people who have put time and effort into making this happen.

I know, I know.  There are some really sad things happening too, and we shouldn’t forget that there are still forms of bigotry in this country.  We also need to acknowledge that, on some level, even this victory has a tinge of bittersweetness–it didn’t guarantee rights for everyone, just those in the 12 states where marriage is already legal.  Even so, I’m rejoicing with those who rejoice today.

Some of the people reading about the Supreme Court’s decision are going to say hateful, nasty things today.  They might spill some of their own anxieties and their own prejudice onto you.  They might talk about fighting to have the decision overturned someday.  They might talk about how this country has stepped all over the “sanctity” of marriage, as though Marriage has been some unchanging, sacred entity for all of human history.  I’m sorry; it’s not right for people to behave like playground bullies when they don’t get their way.

The thing I think people fail to realize is that marriage isn’t a zero-sum game.  Your victory doesn’t take anything from anyone else.  In fact, I would argue that it makes it stronger. It doesn’t make anyone’s religion or religious ceremony invalid, either.  I always find it sort of funny when people talk about things cheapening or demeaning marriage because it’s a holy institution created by God.  Sounds like a denial that non-Christians get married all the time and that many same-sex couples are Christians who value the religious sacrament of marriage.

You should also know (and you probably already do) that if you choose not to get married, your relationship is not less-than.  It’s not a piece of paper or a government seal or an officiant’s signature or a federal benefit that indicates a commitment.  People get married or don’t get married for all sorts of reasons.  This just means that if you live in one of the states that recognizes marriage equality, you have some new options available to you.  It means that in the future, people in other states will have those choices too.

Today, I will celebrate with you whom I love.  I will offer virtual hugs to my loved ones too far away for an actual embrace, and I will continue to hold you in my heart.  I will drink to your health and I will “like” your Facebook statuses and read your blog posts.  I will honor those who have worked tirelessly for this victory.

Tomorrow, I will get back to work fighting all the other injustice that still surrounds us.

Much love,

Me

Notable News: Week of June 8-14, 2013

Happy Friday! Here at our house, this is the last Friday of the school year (for the kids, anyway).  They’re done as of next Wednesday.  I’m glad, because I need a vacation.  The nice thing about the school calendar is that just when I’m starting to feel burned out, we get another break.  I’m going to be making the most of mine, that’s for sure.

Here are the cool (and not-so-cool) things I read this week:

1. The “question” of consent

Dianna Anderson has a fantastic post on dignity and not treating people as questions to be answered.  She rightly points out the inherent problem of calling consent a question and where the Church must tread lightly in regard to ideas open to debate.  Ironically, the same day I read this post, I read another one in which the writer cheerily talks about wanting to interact with “the gay community” in order to demonstrate how loving she is–all while simultaneously referring to “the gay lifestyle” as being outside God’s perfect design.  Guess that writer didn’t read Dianna’s post first.

2. The “question” of breadwinning wives

I highly recommend you make time to read all of Danielle’s response to Mary Kassian’s post on breadwinning wives.  I particularly liked the second part, My Marriage Is Not a Form of Prostitution.  In parallel, I’ve seen couples treat marriage this way outside of the career/financial angle–a lot of people seem to think that it’s an acceptable transaction to trade sex for goods and services.  I’m not convinced that’s a healthy view of marriage.

3. Questions for N. T. Wright

If you’re a fan of Wright’s work, you may be interested in his responses to readers’ questions on Rachel Held Evans’ blog.

4. The “question” of women teaching

This is a great read from Laura Ziesel about the illogical view of women as “more easily deceived.”  I have long held that not only can we not determine exactly when a boy is too old to be taught by a woman (many churches arbitrarily use 18), we also have the stupid view that a 70-year-old life-long woman of faith cannot teach a young, inexperienced barely adult male of 18 or 21.  Now there’s another one–that women, being weaker and more easily deceived, should probably not be teaching children, either.  What a load of manure; thanks, Laura, for pointing that out.

5. Questions for a couple coping with chronic illness

This is an interesting interview with a couple in which the wife has endometriosis.  I appreciate the wisdom in recommending that the Church develop healthier ways to talk about sex and relationships, especially given the fact that it’s never one-size-fits-all.

6. The “question” of PDA

Yeah, I admit I’m one of those people who prefers that couples not stick their tongues down each others’ throats in public or grope each other under their clothes on the beach.  But a little kissin’? Heck no, that doesn’t bother me.  It makes me just want to scream whenever I see someone on social media write,

I’m not homophobic, but I really don’t need to see two guys kissing.

I get it that some people don’t like PDA, but until everyone starts pointing it out when they see a het couple doing it, then those people really need to keep that thought to themselves.  Anyway, go read this article about couples who were asked to leave for PDA and then try to tell me it’s not homophobia.

7. Love isn’t a question

My fellow writer Aaron Smith has written a beautiful guest post over on Registered Runaway’s blog.  He says it all; I have nothing to add.

8. A question of point of view

Novelist Adrian Smith explains using second person.  I do it all the freakin’ time, on this blog and in casual speech, but I’ve never written a story in second person.  When done well, it’s good; when done poorly, it’s awful.  See if you can make it work. (See what I did there?)

9. The “question” of modesty

Oh, dear Lord, here we go again.  We women don’t know what we “do” to men.  Apparently, they have to repeat the internal mantra, “Don’t think about boobs don’t think about boobs don’t think about boobs dammit I’m thinking about boobs.”  This just seriously creeps me out, because I don’t think I know any men who really have these issues, but a few who do have managed to convince a whole generation of young men that they do, too.  So gross.

10. A question for Cheerio-despising racists

At the end of this spoof of the Cheerios ad with the biracial couple, the question is: “What? Now this is a problem?”  Go watch it and share the funny with your friends.

11. A story with a question

I’m not entirely sure what happens after the end of my story for Fiction Friday.  I’ll let you decide.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

I support marriage equality

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Just in case the title of this post wasn’t clear, or you haven’t ever read my blog before, I support marriage equality.  There.  I’ve said it twice now.

Yesterday, I had the unfortunate lack of sense to use Human Rights Campaign’s flashy red logo with the equals sign as my profile picture in several places.  Yeah, my apologies to anyone I offended.  I’m normally a person who does enough research to know whether something is a good idea.  I had a pretty spectacular fail there, and I’m sorry.  I have since changed it, of course, out of respect for others.  Yes, it was hurtful to some people I care about, but I also care about not harming people who randomly follow me on the Internet.  Kindness shouldn’t require personal connection.

Anyway, because I kept seeing people tweeting about the HRC logo, I did do some digging.  Naturally, I came across some good information that explained the problem.  Unfortunately, I also discovered several disappointing rants about marriage equality, and not from conservative religious people.

The main point of the anti-marriage rants wasn’t necessarily specific to same-sex couples marrying.  It was more about marriage in general, and specifically marriage as it relates to family structure.  The argument was that legal marriage perpetuates a certain type of family structure and is therefore discriminatory.

I don’t entirely disagree.  I have long said that I think the government should just butt the hell out of marriage in general.  Religious institutions can keep it as a sacrament if they want, but removing the legal stamp of approval would make it much easier on everyone.  However, that has nothing to do with whether or not I think a certain type of family is “better” than another.

There are a few reasons why I still support marriage equality, despite the fact that I don’t think a legal document should be necessary.  First, the way the law is written, there are literally dozens of legal benefits to marriage.  It’s a worthy goal to strip those away and make sure everyone has those rights regardless of a piece of paper, but that isn’t going to happen overnight.  I think the place to start is by giving everyone the right to marry if they so desire.  (And in case you were wondering, no, I don’t include children, pets, and immediate family members in that, but I do include multiple spouses; that’s a post for another day.)  I think marriage equality is a temporary patch, but a necessary one.

Second, I think arguing against marriage from a family structure point of view is on shaky ground.  Even though the argument is intended to sound like it isn’t heteronormative and biased toward procreation, it actually is.  It should not be surprising that of the three anti-marriage arguments I read, two were written by white cisgender heterosexual parents with long-term partners–in other words, people who have the freedom to marry but have chosen not to.  I concede that “marriage,” with all its varying definitions over the course of human history, has indeed been at least partly driven by procreation.  However, that is not what marriage is; it’s only one of the things marriage can do.  Claiming that marriage only legitimizes a two-parent family structure assumes that every married couple wants to parent, or that the potential for parenthood was their only reason for getting married.  Should they not have bought into the system?  Should they have remained unmarried because there were no children to be “harmed” by their lack of legal contract?  It also assumes that there are absolutely no other family-related benefits to legal marriage other than making sure kids have two adults in the home.

Third, no one said that marriage equality is the last battle–or even the first one–toward an inclusive society.  I have never heard that as an argument in favor of marriage equality.  Maybe I need to read more, but I’ve never read anything in which someone tried to claim that if same-sex couples can marry, it will end all discrimination.  But even if someone did say that, so what?  Saying something doesn’t make it true, nor does it take anything away from protecting other rights.  If one person wants to spend his or her time and money on marriage equality, why would that prevent someone else from making a different choice?  As long as a person is not actively supporting discriminatory legislation, I don’t see the problem here.  (I feel differently about whole organizations, though, especially when they claim to speak for a community.  I certainly don’t want, say, Concerned Women for America suddenly claiming to support “women’s rights.”)

Finally, people want to get married.  Couples everywhere want to get married, and not all of them do it because they know the secrets of the tax code.  Not all couples need religion as their reason either.  Since there are many, many people who want to be married, I support that.  I support their right to have a legal document stating that they are married.  I don’t really care what their reasons are for doing it; I just want the law to reflect their right.

I do understand why some people feel differently, but I still stand behind marriage equality.  Not everyone will choose to marry, but everyone should legitimately have the right to make that choice.

 

Notable News: Week of November 10-16, 2012

Here we are, the end of another week.  We’ve had our ups and downs here, but we’ve made it to the weekend!  Tomorrow, I get to play my violin with some of the best people around—not to mention getting to play some great music!  It’s our pops concert, and the theme is movie music.  We’ll be playing selections from Superman, The Magnificent Seven, Sense and Sensibility, Catch Me if You Can, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and (of course) Star Wars.  If you’re in my area and you want to come out, please do!  I’d love to see you there at 7:30 Saturday night (you can buy tickets at the door for $9 or call the RWC box office).

Now for this weeks great blog posts:

1. No confirmation for you!

In this week’s edition of Does This Really Surprise Anyone, we learn that Minnesota teen Lennon Cihak won’t be confirmed by the Catholic Church for his support of marriage equality.  It’s actually not entirely clear if this is the case, as the priest in question has denied the allegation.  Honestly, I wish people would stop acting like it’s only the Catholic Church that does this sort of thing.  I mean, I’m not naming any names, but I know plenty of Catholics who support marriage equality and at least a few gay Catholics.  I’m aware of more than one local parish that embraces LGBT people.  Conservative evangelical protestants, on the other hand…well.  You all saw my post last week after the election, right?  Maybe I’ll start that online form to pray for my soul after all.

2. More awesome from Dianna Anderson

Man, I cannot wait until her book is published.  No pressure, Dianna!  I just have to say that in the realm of Christian feminism, she is in top form.  If you’re not subscribed to her blog, you should be.  Here are two good posts from this week: Friends with Kids, Love Stories, and Rape Culture and The Magical Mystery of Marriage.  For the first post, thanks, Dianna, for taking one for the team and watching that movie so I don’t have to.  Now I’m spreading the word so that my friends don’t waste their time and money either.  As for the second post, I’m glad someone is standing up and saying that marriage is not the answer to unhealthy sexuality, nor does it automatically make sex healthy.  I think what I like best about this post is that Dianna doesn’t offer pat answers; she calls for a conversation in which we lay aside labels.  Count me in!

3. Kill the Gays

Yeah, it passed.  That wasn’t a surprise.  Disappointing, but not shocking.  What saddens me is that some people will read this and shrug; others will be outright in support of it.  A few will probably misunderstand entirely.  I don’t have any words for this; all I can do is keep praying.

4. Twilight and Perpetual Girlhood

This is a great post about one of the things that bothered me as I read Twilight.  Now, I did enjoy the books as kind of light fare; however, I do recognize the problematic (I really hate that word, but it does apply here) elements.  Bella’s desire to remain ageless is one of them.  Sorry, folks, we normal people eventually get old.  My hair is already run through with a bit of gray.  But I don’t color it, because in my opinion, it’s natural.  What isn’t natural is to want to appear twenty for the rest of my life.  (I don’t lie about my age, either, even though some of my peers already do—and we’re hardly old!)  This article falls apart a bit at the end, but it’s still worth the read.

5. Addicted to (Controlling) Love

Thank you, Emily Maynard, for saying what I’ve been trying to say, but using fewer (and better) words.  Our bodies are not objects for male consumption, and we are not responsible for what men do.  This post, too, is a good explanation of men continuously imposing themselves on the way we dress—we must be either vixens or virgins, but not of our own free will.  I think we women need to apply these arguments to women’s health care, birth control, and abortion as well as clothing/modesty.

7. On being non-essential

I can’t express enough how much I love this post by Pam Hogeweide.  She puts it so well when she explains why we women can’t just leave the church if we’re unhappy with our position.  She also brings up something I’d never thought of: that women in leadership is usually reduced to the status of “non-essential” doctrine; that is, it has no direct bearing on our salvation.  Until reading this post, I had always felt that way myself—it doesn’t matter if a particular church rejects women as pastors, because it’s not really essential.  I can now understand the nagging feeling I always had about that, though.  Unlike the inanimate elements of communion or the inanimate practice of spiritual gifts, women are actual people; we are not “non-essentials.”  Well said, Pam!

8. Talk about “I have no idea what I feel about this”

So it turns out that Kevin Clash, voice of Elmo, is gay.  So what?  I’m sure some parents will be upset, but I’m not sure that makes much sense.  Bert and Ernie have more gay overtones than Elmo (yes, I know they’re only roommates; don’t get your panties in a bunch).  I don’t see Sesame Workshop developing any storylines where Elmo gets a gay crush or anything.  The real issue turns out to be whether or not Clash had a relationship with a minor.  Now, I’ve seen people arguing on both sides, and I’d like to tell you all to please let someone other than the media sort this one out.  Clash is on a break from Sesame Street, so chill out.  Also, could we stop seeing more “blame the victim” crap all over the place?  Yeah, the alleged victim recanted.  We don’t know why.  And his criminal record has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on whether or not Clash took advantage of him.  So no jumping to conclusions until the actual people involved get it sorted, okay?  Good.

What a week!  Lots of good stuff.  Hope you have a great weekend!  I’m off til Monday, picking back up with some more Fifty Shades goodness badness.  See you then!

Notable News: Mutuality Edition, Week of June 1-8, 2012

My apologies for posting this so late in the day.  Here are my favorites from the week of synchroblogging inspired by the week of mutuality.

1. First, kudos to Rachel Held Evans for her outstanding work.  She will be continuing to post over the weekend, so be sure to check out what else she has in store (including her own highlights of the best).  Her series has been fantastic.  Here are the posts, in order of appearance:

2. Christian Marriage: Fail?  Pam Hogeweide is one of my favorite bloggers.  In her post My Failed Christian Marriage, she talks about the struggle to fit the ideal for Christian marriage and the joy in finding freedom from those restraints.

3. Fabulosity on Alise Wright’s blog.  Another blogger I just can’t get enough of.  First, Alise catches our attention by reminding us that You Don’t Have to Take Your Clothes Off to Be Egalitarian.  Then, she has the always wonderful Sarah Moon share her thoughts on Too Much in a fantastic guest post.  If you don’t read anything else, read these posts!

4. A couple of men weigh in.  I always like the way Travis Mamone shares his heart.  This post is a good way to introduce some deeper theological constructs without getting bogged down with terminology; it’s nicely put.  Through the trending topic #mutuality2012 on Twitter, I discovered Jonathan Aigner’s post sorry, little girl: a patriarchal response.  Great thoughts on the deficiency of the female gender and faithfully following God’s gifts in our own lives without causing guilt in others.

5. The Best of the Rest.  I could go on and on, listing everything I like and why.  Instead, I will simply list the several other posts that I found meaningful.  Even though we’re all writing on the same thing, each person has a unique voice, an interesting perspective.  What an amazing week it’s been!

Feel free to leave a comment with any blog posts you like on the subject of mutuality/egalitarianism, whether they’re from this week or not.  Don’t forget to link to your own if you wrote something!

 

A new view of submission

This is the third post on the subject of mutuality (see footnote).

I got some nice responses to my first post in this series, including a mention in this post (which I enjoyed reading; I appreciate the writer’s generous, loving tone).  On my Facebook page, one friend wrote,

[To] us that word [submission] doesn’t mean authority it mean[s] “source.”

I found myself thinking about that, because I liked it, but couldn’t place exactly why.  Then I realized that I liked it because it has profound implications for both complementarians and egalitarians.  In other words, we can both be right, because in our unique marriages, we can figure out with our spouses what to do with it.

I looked up the word “source” and found the following definitions from the American Heritage Dictionary:

  1. The point at which something springs into being or from which it derives or is obtained.
  2. The point of origin, such as a spring, of a stream or river.
  3. One that causes, creates, or initiates; a maker.
  4. One, such as a person or document, that supplies information: A reporter is only as reliable as his or her sources.
  5. Physics. The point or part of a system where energy or mass is added to the system.

Each one of those definitions can hold meaning within a marriage.  Each one can be a point of blessing for a couple, depending on how they view their roles and how they are seeking to honor one another and Jesus.  The beautiful part about the word is that when it’s applied to the passage about mutual submission, it can take on a whole new dimension.

Personally, being kind of a geek, I like definition number 5.  It suits us well, as my husband and I both score major Nerd Points, both in our marriage and in life generally.  If marriage is a system, then it certainly makes sense that “mass” would have been added when we entered into it!

I would encourage you, with your spouse, to engage with this concept of “source” in marriage.  What does it mean for you?  How does it work in practical terms?  In what ways does this make you feel either more free or more restricted?  I hope that in digging deeper, you will be able to find peace with how your relationship works.

This post is part of the Week of Mutuality led by Rachel Held Evans.  You can follow the other posts on Twitter with #mutuality2012.  Check it out, there are some fantastic writers weighing in on the topic.  On Friday, I will highlight my favorites.  Look for Rachel’s faves in her usual Sunday Superlatives.

What if a man can’t lead?

I’m continuing my posts this week on the subject of mutuality.  Today’s topic: Exceptions to the rule.

Whenever I hear the words “Biblical womanhood” I want to do several things:  Throw something large, heavy, and preferably breakable; scream; hide until whoever said it goes away.

I understand that a certain kind of relationship is to be expected when you take a particular female personality type and a particular male personality type and put them together in a marriage.  And you know what?  That’s awesome for them that they have figured out how to make their marriage work, honoring their natural styles.  But I’d rather they keep their opinions about my marriage to themselves, thanks.  My marriage isn’t built on obeying a certain set of rules, goals, traits, or what have you.

Anyway, one thing that always concerns me is the number of people who are left out of the equation.  I can handle it.  I’m used to being a non-traditional woman among traditional Christians.  Story of my life, for many, many years.  No, I’m more frustrated by the traditional people left out in the cold by people hawking Biblical womanhood.

There are a lot of women who can’t fulfill this role even if they want to.  As one friend put it, “I don’t like hearing all the time about how I’m supposed to submit to my husband.  I don’t have a husband.  Am I supposed to go find one so I can submit to him?”  Another friend asked, “What am I supposed to do?  I’m a single parent.  I have to be both mom and dad to my kids.  Who do I submit to?”

Last night, my husband and I generated a list of people who might have some difficulty with the typical conservative marriage expectations:

  • Women whose husbands have died or abandoned their family
  • Women who have never been married
  • Women whose husbands are ill or injured and unable to “lead” their families
  • Women whose husbands have left the Christian faith and cannot be the spiritual authority
  • Women who became Christians but their husbands did not (see above)
  • Women whose husbands are deep in addiction
  • Women whose husbands are abusive
  • Women whose husbands are doing things that are morally corrupt or illegal
  • Women whose husbands are incarcerated
  • Women whose husbands spend large amounts of time away from home (due to work or military service)

That’s an awful lot of exceptions to the rule.

I am sure that conservative people would have some snappy answer for all of it.  Or else they might say that of course there are exceptions, this applies to “regular” people.  That’s fascinating, but it doesn’t do much to help the people who are in the midst of those situations.  It doesn’t help the woman who has lived her entire marriage being the kind of Biblical wife she believed she should be, and now finds herself without a spiritual rudder because her husband has Alzheimer’s.  It doesn’t help the woman who suddenly finds herself a single mother of three because her husband has left her for another woman.  It doesn’t help the woman who has given her whole life in service to others, believing her highest calling wasn’t marriage but the mission field.  It doesn’t help the woman whose husband returns to her every night, blind drunk.  It doesn’t help the woman whose husband has spent the better part of their marriage beating her and calling her names.

Instead of labeling those women “irregular” and “exceptions to the rule,” why not make a point of helping those women gain strength in Christ?  I know there are support groups for people dealing with life issues.  However, shouldn’t the church be another place they can turn?  There are more women in these situations than you know.  Instead of reminding them of the ways they are different from all the “normal” families, where Dad is the strong head of the household, can’t we do more to empower those people who don’t fit that mold?

If we really want to build healthy marriages and healthy families, we need to start by removing language that says or implies that proper, Biblical marriage is the pinnacle of existence.  We need to talk more about how families can be strengthened in God-honoring and people-honoring ways that have less to do with gender roles and more to do with respecting each person’s needs within the home.  When we can do that, we will bring hope and healing for all women, regardless of relationship status.

This post is part of the Week of Mutuality led by Rachel Held Evans.  You can follow the other posts on Twitter with #mutuality2012.  Check it out, there are some fantastic writers weighing in on the topic.  On Friday, I will highlight my favorites.  Look for Rachel’s faves in her usual Sunday Superlatives.