So many thoughts right now.
I had known about the controversy of this John Piper blog post for a week or so but, frankly, didn’t want to take the bait and read it. But finally did and it – along with Rachael Denhollander’s victim statement, all the #MeToo sadness, a phenomenal conference, texts from a ministry partner about a young woman not feeling safe in her home and needing shelter, this blog post, and my own personal junk – seems too much to not take the time and sort through in written form.
I’ll put the bottom line up front: I believe we are battling an evil spirit of patriarchal power and dominance. Certainly not only in our day, but in a way we cannot deny during our time on this planet. And I believe those who have done battle against it are the ones qualified to speak to it. The problem is, this root can bear a variety of fruit making it difficult to distinguish truth from lies. So let’s back up.
I was telling a friend the other day that, in the midst of learning so much about white privilege, classism and white supremacy, it hit me that I am raising future white men. White men – with all the privilege and power that (often sadly) can result in this broken world simply because of those two descriptors they didn’t choose. And the way I both respect my husband and properly submit to him and the way I wisely stand up to him and set healthy boundaries will affect their understanding in how to live with the privileged cards they’ve been dealt.
The way I see it, two extremes from me as the primary female figure in their formative years could set them up for failure. The first is modeling more of a doormat type of wife and mother. With my main function to meet their father’s and their own needs. As in, this is my highest and most worthy calling as an Ezer (from Azar, and with the descriptive adjective neged, from the word nagad. I linked to those so words such as conspicuous, other side, restrain, protect, ally, and aid could be noted.)
The other extreme to model for our future men is to attack or control or demand from their father or them in such a way that they either are turned away from female influence or experience shame in who God created them to be. I think there’s a way we women can go about making our points that can alienate the other half of the population. And, women, if we’re going to do battle on this, we need the men.
Listen, I think the Church spends a lot of time disagreeing about particulars in complementarian versus egalitarian points of view. And I get it: ideas have consequences and what we believe and live in our homes and teach in our communities matters. But more often than not, I think we spin our wheels with each other rather than love. If I was pushed I’m pretty sure I’d fall into the complementarian camp. I think it’s clear God made the two genders different. But I’d have some limbs dangling in a lot of cabins of the egalitarian camp. For starters, I have a pretty egalitarian bent, like in things such as liberty and justice for all. I also have a tendency to believe that being a helper or ally or aid means things like having a spine and healthy boundaries. No way to truly aid someone without it. Or even love them well.
As I type this I realize I’m likely representing only stereotypes of each side. Heaven only knows this isn’t simplistic. But I tend to think we agree on more things than we disagree in these areas. I believe Paul wanted men to be all God created them to be and lay down their lives for others and the Body. I believe Paul wanted women to be all God created them to be and lay down their lives for others and the Body. And there is no way based on how that man was led to do ministry, how he speaks of women, and his acknowledgment of spiritual gifts in the church that he only desired passive, compliant women. Nor do I think El Roi, the God Who Sees, saw to making half the population – and His Bride – a certain gender, gifting that half by the power of the Holy Spirit, then expecting silence to be their norm.
However, I know from experience with our God that submission to authority matters. Submission to abuse is evil. Submission to proper authority is vital. In His relentless pursuit to make us like Jesus, God wants us to know what to do if given authority. And how on earth could we wield authority without knowing how to yield to it? So this matters, and it matters in this conversation. But it’s not the main point I need to press today.
For me in the midst of all this, the main point is a disgusting fruit of this root: blame. This sense of self-blame says, “It’s all my fault” even in situations that clearly are not. A misplaced desire to keep the peace or defend or protect abusive or unhealthy behavior. But mostly, the whole reason ________ happened was because of self. It was the part I most resonated with in Rachel’s statement: if adults or authorities whose job it is to protect you say nothing is wrong with abusive behavior, the natural result is it must be me. I’m not a counselor, but I would assume this is a common stage for victims. However, I’m not sure all move past it at the same rate. I think many stay here and because of that, stay silent. And because of the way systemic oppression operates, there will always be multiple powerful voices helping keep that self-blame in place to silence victims.
And it is this fruit that most paralyzes me. And I’m sure many others, as I can only imagine how many more #MeToo confessions we would have if everyone told. And it is this lie, that everything is our fault, that needs to go back down to the pit of hell where it belongs. It looks like the wife whose husband cheats and her only response is to redouble her efforts to be a perfect wife. Or the female employee who blames herself for sexual harassment because she thinks her body is shameful. Or the rape victim in a country of rampant corruption who blames herself for not taking another route home. Healthy evaluation says, “This is what I’m responsible for, this is what I’m not” and moves forward. And in cases of victimization, healthy evaluation speaks into the shame with, “None of this is my fault.” Because the root of all this is a twisted version of a God-given ordinance to rule over creation. It has turned to power at the expense of others and sinful dominance over healthy stewardship.
Please hear me, I am not a man-hater. I’m a big fan. But if we don’t acknowledge the principalities and powers at work, none of us will be fully free to healthily live our lives in the here and now preparing for the Kingdom come. Many men are intentional at fighting against this evil, whether or not they realize or name it.
Every time they fight the urge to disbelieve women, discounting them as irrational or illogical, when they not only include female voices in matters involving vision or leadership but listen and take heed, men are fighting the good fight against this evil. When men are tempted to believe women are the enemy out to take over or belittle them, or only an object or out to seduce them, and instead replace those lies with Truth, they do battle against this principality. When men whose struggle is looking to women for their worth instead put their Heavenly Father on that throne and lead and serve and love and work alongside women as colleagues or sisters or friends, they resist another form of this dominance.
When men stand up for women, men, boys and girls who have been abused, no matter the social or positional cost, they triumph over this wickedness. When men use the strength they’ve been given to stand guard and protect those who need protection, shielding them from more danger, they live into their God-given design. When men get on their faces and pray for this broken world, nation, culture and specific individuals, God moves and gives victory.
And when God is clearly showing us an outpouring of His Spirit on all sons and daughters, we all together sense it and join Him. Because to resist is disobedience and making decisions based on fear is not wisdom. God has too much to say through His entire Bride for us to not listen. Or say to half the Body they have little or only certain topics to contribute to this time, our time now. And I’m just going to say it: in particular, I believe we need to be listening to women of color. Just pull up a chair and learn, friends, or we will be repeating a defeating cycle.
There’s more to say, there’s always more to say. But it’s been brewing in my mind, heart and spirit too long to ignore, so this is what I have for now. Blessings to anyone reading this. Pray with me against this? Like many things, our collective situation could get worse before it gets better. But a refined Bride dazzlingly reflecting a Glorious Savior is worth it.