26 January 2007

Just Common Sense?

A day or two ago, I picked up a book on a book stall written by a Christian woman who was advocating that women should obey their husbands (AKA "complimentarianism", AKA "male-headship").

Now, I confess to only reading two pages, but this is what I read.

The author talked about how, marriage certificate in hand, she set out at the beginning of her marriage to change her husband into what she wanted him to be. She recounted how their marriage became more and more difficult for both of them as she set her sights on her own objectives of the sort of person her husband should be and tried with increasing lack of success to change him.

The bit where I finished reading said something like "Too many women train their husbands and obey their children when they should be obeying their husbands and training their children."

Well, guess what? This egalitarian agrees with all of those sentiments. It seems to me that this is just common sense.

Children should be lovingly and gently trained and certainly not obeyed; children need adults to establish boundaries at a young age and then to help them learn to establish their own boundaries as they get older.

And no-one in their right mind should ever marry a person with the thought that their spouse could be perfect if only this and that and that were changed. Assuming that a person has wisely chosen a spouse, the key to spiritual growth is in learning to love the person as they are rather than in trying to change them. The sooner anyone learns this in a marriage, the better for both parties. This is just total common sense.

My only point would be that this goes for both parties. Men should not expect to marry a woman so as to change her into My Ideal Wife any more than a woman should try to change a man into My Ideal Husband.

The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about law and grace; including the fact that grace does not mean that we should abandon ourselves to sinful behaviour. But I think that Paul's insight was that legal solutions to peace on earth don't work. If God actually did legislate that women must strive to change themselves according to their husband's command, this legislation isn't going to result in a loving, peaceful marriage. However, if both parties sincerely believe that they are to love the other and to do everything in their power to serve the other, then love will prevail. (This is actually a tautology because Christian love is, by definition, serving another.)

The Law fears freedom and sees the freedom of love and grace as potentially chaotic, therefore Law strives to control Other People. Ironically, it is only the very freedom that Law fears that will result in the peace and harmony that Law wants.


Sandalstraps said...

The problem I have with the assertion that "Too many women train their husbands and obey their children when they should be obeying their husbands and training their children," is that it assumes that there are only two options for a woman with respect to her relationships:

Either she is dominant, or she is submissive.

The bad scenario offered here is dominance over the husband and submissiveness to the children. The good scenario offered as a counter point is submissiveness to the husband and dominance over the children. But, what if a woman were neither in a relation of dominance nor a relationship of submission, but instead in a cooperative and collegial relationship? Would not such an arrangement be most healthy for all parties in a marriage?

That a woman must either manipulate or submit to her husband is a view that marriage is primarily a battle between competeing wills, with a winner and a loser. The view that the male is the natural head of the household says that the man should be the winner, and the woman the loser. But, in this model I think that both parties are ultimately losers, because their wills are pitted against each other.

Marriage isn't about dominance and submission, and parenting isn't about dominance and submission. Both marriage and parenting are about negotiating between wills which while initially in competetion learn through love to work together in cooperation. There should be no winners and losers, and no fixed roles of dominance and submission. Rather, there should be only negotiated cooperation, flexibility, and love.

I'm sure that many people agree with this in respect to marriage, but I think that it also applies in parent-child relationships. Not that children ought to be given free reign, with no constraints on their wills; but that their relationship with their parents should not be an exclusively dominant-submissive one.

The single biggest cause of violent acting out in children is a feeling of powerlessness, a feeling of helplessness, and a feeling that they are being dominated by an aritrary authority that does not allow them to have a voice. When their voice is not heard, when they have no legitimate area of authority for themselves, they lash out, trying to communicate in ways that can't be silenced, trying to carve out an authority for themselves that can't be controled. When order is authoritarian, chaos is prefered. And, when kids have no voice in their own lives, they create chaos, making that chaos their voice, their area of authority.

The dominance-submission model of relationships leads to this, both in relationships that ought to be collegial (marriage) and in relationships in which there is a clear authority (parent-child). In either event, when the authority is arbitrary, and when submission is a fixed position, only bad things happen.

One can almost see proper parenting as the gradual transfer of authority to the child, with the child gaining more and more authority as they grow more mature. But, that is enough from me. I've rambled.

PamBG said...

Yep, I agree with all that. I just didn't really read the language quite that way. Maybe it's a generational thing, I don't know. I didn't really feel that dominanting children was what the book was recommending.

The dominance and submission is the whole issue I have with "complimentarianism" or "male headship". I think "dominance and submission" is inherently anti-Christian. It is the "worldly" view of what it means to be a human being in relationship.

Sally said...

interesting post Pam- I'm certainly with you on the training children bit-though I'm not sure that is a word I'd choose- as for obedience hmmmm that is an emotive word- respect yes, and as you say that should be two way- you have me thinking, thanks.