A Sincere Complement

Trying to apply a vintage truth

I’m Sick of this Lack of Context

 

Sometimes we paint with too broad of a brush. There are times when leaders try to speak to some mythical lowest-common denominator nd completely miss the mark. In her incendiary piece, “I’m Sick of Hearing About Your Smoking Hot Wife,” Mary DeMuth calls out church leaders in an area she believes their broad brush is taking too many casualties. This is a noble piece, filled with a unique valiance to speak up for those often too insecure and damaged to muster the strength to speak for themselves. I fear, however, she may be committing the same crimes she accuses some pastors of making.  She takes a some negative experiences, and poorly chosen words and constructs a perfectly fictional target for her attack. I am extremely sympathetic to her points, but am afraid these tactics lose those points.

The lack of context in this piece is stunning. I have no reason to believe the author is anything but a bright, intelligent woman, but her forms of argumentation are so fraught with error and devoid of context for the other side, it’s hard to really fight back. When a person is complaining to a straw man, the real person can’t get his point across. The first issue is the quote she draws from Mark Driscoll. Somehow, she has the incriminating quote verbatim but is unable to provide any amount of real context for the quote. There is no plausible way for a reader to go and try to discern the meaning from Driscoll’s piece. It’s gone. And, the very fact that it’s gone could be used to prove he regretted the piece and agreed with her issues with it. Either way, to use a contextless quote as her center piece of evidence of a corrupt mentality is a dirty trick. And it is talking about a very specific situation he has seen in his peers’ marriages, that a wife would leverage her husband’s profession as license to shut herself down. That speaks nothing into the legitimate struggle many people have. The assumption that his specific statement would be that far-reaching is misguided.

I don’t mean to just argue with the merits of her piece. Reading her piece, I see a woman clearly very hurt and trying to draw attention to an issue she feels is woefully, and painfully, underrepresented. That’s completely fair and a worthy cause. However, her method of argumentation may highlight some larger issues with her perspective; mainly, that her offense may (rightfully) clouded due to an unspeakable scar she carries from her past.

DeMuth makes the good point that the pastor is not merely there to lead the men in the church. That’s a good point. But an equally important point is that one of Driscoll’s (and many other pastors’) chief aims is to challenge the males in their congregation to behave the way biblical men should. To be honorable the way Jesus was honorable so that they can help lead honorable families and not be dead-beat dads who walk out and leave destruction in their wake. As Derek Rishmawy points out in this piece, they are trying to teach a pornified, over-sexualized culture that a life of chastity, monogamy, fidelity and unbridled commitment to one woman is the healthiest, intended way to live. He’s trying to raise men that won’t do the unconscionable things DeMuth was subject to.

So, Driscoll and many other leaders, occasionally (and awkwardly) publicly indicate that they have sexual desire for their wives. He also frequently brags about his wife as a mother, a counselor, an equal, and a multitude of other things. He also teaches his church that their spouses should, practically, be the standard of what they find attractive. In that same sermon, he even says that they shouldn’t go around flaunting their wives and objectifying them. It would seem Driscoll, like many, many rational people, would agree with many of DeMuth’s points.

It’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater in this situation. DeMuth’s piece illustrates the incredibly awkward ways Christians broach the subject of sex. The current moment is a tricky one to navigate because an intimate, private matter is frequently publicly corrupted. The perversion is widespread and prevalent enough that a pastor or teacher who ignores the issue is doing a tremendous disservice to his congregation. DeMuth provides a brave voice for some of the victims of this widespread perversion. This piece is perhaps just a little to myopic and suffers because its criticisms are aimed at caricatures that largely don’t exist. Her points are poignant, her pain heartbreaking, and her call to action imperative – church leaders should take note of her complaints. The massive swell of conversation this piece ignited is proof enough that she is not alone in her complaints. But, maybe, there are more productive and less insulting ways to have this conversation.

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Rape Culture and Responsibility

Although I am a little late on this article on the Steubenville rape trial, I feel there are a few important points to mine from it. Above all else this should come down to a case of an egregious lack of responsibility taken by the boys, and seems symptomatic of the culture at large. As a man, I am placed in the ruling class if only because of the chromosome my father passed to me. That privilege comes with a tremendous responsibility that is often lost in our male-centric culture.

The male of complementarity is best explained as a sacrificial, hands-on servant leadership (Ephesians 5:25-26). It involves taking accountability for not just your actions but those of the people whom you have influence over or responsibility to.  For example: a complementarian holds that if a husband and wife fight, regardless of blame (and within reason), it is the responsibility  of the husband to initiate reconciliation. That does not absolve the wife from responsibility to reconcile or from her contributions to the fight. It  also does not provide a value statement on who was right or wrong in the argument. All it says is the burden of initiating reconciliation – of swallowing one’s pride, right or wrong and extending peace – falls on the man; and he is accountable to that by members of his (church) community. (For further study or an example, this sermon by Dr. John Piper, with accompanying manuscript, is particularly illuminating)

Too often the rhetoric in the aftermath of the sorts of tragedies that happened in Steubenville is surrounding the tragedy of lost potentials, and of poor self defense. As Newcomb points out anecdotally in the piece linked above, there is little a woman can do to avert the constant male gaze. No amount of self defense techniques for girls or women will fix the deeper issue that they need defending at all. It should be the responsibility of men, both the community and the individuals, to teach boys that their value is not found in the power the are capable of exerting over women. Women are their unique but equal counterparts – just because men are typically physically capable of intimidating or taking advantage of a woman does not make them superior. Exploiting an advantage like that only serves to degrade one’s power.

Perhaps girls should not be in positions where they are more vulnerable than usual. Perhaps they shouldn’t get drunk, be too ostentatious in dress or flirtatious. The merits for those arguments aside, a truly complementarian man does not see that vulnerability as an opening to exert dominance; he sees it as an opportunity to protect and defend his friend.

It is a shame that those two boys, with their lives ahead of them, threw it away through an array of horrifyingly stupid acts. It’s a greater shame that they let their libidos, and need for approval and dominance permanently mar the life of an equally precious young woman with her whole life ahead.  The failure to protect her while she was vulnerable, and use that state of inebriation and weakness as a window to satisfy their darkest impulses and cravings for attention and approval is deplorable and is a microcosm of the failures of rape culture at large.

The Conversation Starters

Sometimes it can feel like everyone on the internet is talking about the same thing. Our insulated little pockets of the web seem to all be speaking in unison – at least as much as arguments can feel like unison. Because of this, it can be really helpful to keep tabs on some of the writers and blogs that seem to generate the conversation.

Christianity Today’s women’s blog, Her.meneutics deserves recognition because of the clout it carries. Being connected with arguably the largest entity in Christian media, their posts are always prominent. All those eyeballs, and trust in the editorial staff, mean anything notable is quickly picked up on and tossed around as debate fodder or just food for thought.

For a notable writer, you should take a look at Rachel Held Evans. Say what you will about her methods but her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, has gotten her a larger platform. She is very vocal on equality issues and while I find myself frequently disagreeing with her, there is no doubt her posts make rounds and become notable talking points in these debates within the evangelical community.

These are just a couple of the influential voices in the evangelical blogosphere. Follow along with them to be up to date on the latest topics of conversation floating around the web.

 

The Value of Tradition

[This week Yasi Khanlou dropped by  to help collaborate on this post. Hope you enjoy and go read her blog!]

Societies have long been marked by their wrestle of tradition and reform. Every society has different traditions and customs that help shape them into the culture people around the world know. These traditions can be seen in the way the people act, the foods they eat, and the way it all changes with time. As time marches on, however, the norms change. As knowledge grows, and technology with it, the old is called into question and change is made. This can be as simple as tweaking of family recipes or as complex as a society’s view on gender equality. Tradition, with proper context, can be a wonderful, empowering force. The tension lies in the ability to preserve the timeless good with clarifying reform.

Pasta and noodles are something relevant in many societies all over the world. Modern day cultures have taken all kinds of noodles from around the world and greatly simplified them. This simplification process has taken away from flavor and tradition that their places of origin had originally given to them. For instance, lasagna, ravioli, and spaghetti that used to be rolled and dried carefully are now machine made and lack the value that they used to have. A great deal of what used to be made with care is now made for accessibility. Because people don’t have the time they used to have the rely on canned and boxed forms of what used to be an old family recipe. Ramen noodles used to be a signature Japanese and Chinese dish that was enjoyed by the consumer because of its taste and nutritional value. Today the Ramen noodles are something completely different. What was once a cultural delicacy has now been made into a quick easy meal with none of the positive nutritional benefits that used to come with it.

The last century has seen many pushes for equality amongst genders. The bulk of these strides have been undoubtedly good, but there is still a need to find what habits of the past bear repeating in the future. Most of the changes can be somewhat explained through simply how much the needs and functions of society has evolved. Less physically strenuous labor has allowed women more opportunities to show the value they bring outside of just the home. However, to abandon the way of the past simply because the future looks so different would be foolishness. There is value to be mined from the former family structure, if nothing else just the stability which was provided. As our collective knowledge continues to grow, we should be observing and examining the ways modeled in the past and glean as much as we can from what worked and didn’t. We’ll never go back to “how things were” and we shouldn’t pine for the past, (hopefully we aren’t longing for the days of subsistence farming) but hopefully we can take what the past has taught us and adapt it to build a more nuanced and complete society.

While it is true that change is necessary for progression, some things don’t need to be changed as drastically as they have in recent years. Traditions exist for a reason – they often hold a deep value beyond themselves. A dish is not just something for a family to share, it ties a city or region together, and familial structure has been largely static for a long time because it has proven to have a particular value. To go forward without celebrating and developing the past would be an unfortunate loss of perspective.

North Dakota Signs Third Significant Anti-Abortion Act

North Dakota passed their third significant piece of abortion restrictive legislation on Tuesday. The New York Times  has the details, including the probable legal battle ahead. This is surely a big move for the pro-life camp and it will be fascinating to watch this develop.

Blog Topic

A central conflict in most belief systems is the degree to which it evolves over time. Traditions are formed, doctrine is set and change becomes threatening to our intellectual safety. A clear picture of that tension is found in the evangelical Christian church and its engagement in our current culture.  In response to this there are many outlets which try to examine the church and its leadership – both how and how they should display the beliefs they themselves. My blog will join in this dynamic, diverse Christian blogging community by specifically chronicling and analyzing notable Christian interactions with women. There is no shortage of study or contemporary writing on women’s rights and the biblical views on those rights.  Most blogs which tackle this subject matter frequently typically fall on the egalitarian side – which makes sense because that is the side seeking reform. Where hopefully I am unique is in my generally complementarian views – which in my experience is a less vocally represented side. I hope to speak to those looking to sort through this tricky issue, those who are looking for intelligent analysis from their opponents, and to all who are wondering just what in the world Christians are thinking.

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