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Saturday, March 10, 2007

I thank God for a feminist agenda

This is a housekeeping post to tidy up a few details related to my personal story.

1. I have spent some time researching the specific Canandian laws which protect me at this moment and was surprised to find that some of them are less than 5 years old and certainly arose out of a feminist agenda. I thank God for these laws. I don't embrace all forms of feminism but I thank God for the feminist agenda that has contributed to my present safety. If someone criticizes the 'whole message of feminism' then I am uncomfortable with that.

2. I believe that hierarchy in marriage is on the same level as slavery and submission to a totalitarian government. The writings of Paul may or may not have been advocating this kind of hierarchy.

3. I don't think that marriage is of central importance to either the gospel or the recommended lifestyle of the epistles, so it should not shut down debate entirely if I chose not to discuss it. My inbox has been interesting in the past. Once someone from the Desiring God Ministries wrote and asked me a list of personal questions about my marriage. On another occasion, someone wrote for personal advice on marriage. So that is why I make this point - in case you were asking.

I would like to simply approach the Bible as a middle-aged single woman - so asking me if I don't really think that child-bearing is the role of women in the church isn't on either. That was another email exchange which I didn't handle very graciously. I experience conversations like this as sexual harassment. How often do I ask about men about their role in marriage and child-begetting?

Okay, so I don't want to be asked awkward questions about marriage and child-bearing, but everything else is good - women leaders in the church, aspects of gender in translation and preferably any other issue at all in Bible translation, but not necessarily all that is involved in interpreting the scriptures.

Now for the important stuff. Are some of you still viewing this blog in IE 6 and do my posts regularly display the missing glyph box since I no longer preview in IE 6?

42 Comments:

At Sat Mar 10, 08:12:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Suzanne, FWIW, I find no passage in the Bible that *teaches* hierarchy in marriage. There is slavery mentioned in the Bible and slaves are told to obey their masters, but nowhere in the Bible is slavery advocated. There is polytheism in the Bible. Abraham was called by God to leave an area which was strongly polytheistic. God did not first require of Abraham that he become a monotheist. God simply asked him to obey and move to another place. But nowhere in the Bible is polytheism taught, even though it was not the first issue that God addressed with Abraham. Palestine was under the Roman rule of an emperor all during the time that the New Testament was written. Jesus taught people to pay their taxes to the emperor. Paul told people to obey the governmental authorities. But nowhere does the Bible teach that God's ideal governmental form is a monarchy. Nor, for that matter, does it teach that American style "democracy" is the ideal.

I think that the history recorded in the Bible shows that God redeems people and their relationships. In the process he doesn't address all societal problems at once.

Women had a poor position in the societies of the Ancient Near East. But they had a better position under Judaism than they did under other religions of the area. And Paul taught God's ideal in Gal. 3:28, that as God regards people, he doesn't view them according to gender, race, nationality, or social status.

Too often, I think, people read the Bible and assume that it is *teaching* killing of our enemies, or slavery, or theocracy, or subordination of women. But if we take a second look, the Bible *records* what occurred and tells what people were taught to do *within* the social systems in which they lived.

The redemptive ideal toward which God wants to move us is there in the Bible if have ears to hear.

 
At Sat Mar 10, 08:42:00 AM, Blogger Psalmist said...

Thanks for this post, Suzanne. I think you are spot on with every point. You remain in my prayers as you continue in your journey of wholeness as a single person.

I also appreciate your response, Wayne. I tend to get too frustrated to deal well with people who attempt to teach that the Bible's descriptives are necessarily prescriptive, for simply being included in the Scriptures. May we all have the eyes and ears to see/hear what Scripture really does say to us.

This blog and its contributors are blessings to me!

 
At Sat Mar 10, 01:46:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Suzanne, I notice that you qualify the kind of government you have in mind not by calling it a hierarchical government but by calling it a totalitarian government. But surely a government can be hierarchical in some sense without being totalitarian. I don't see most western democracies as totalitarian at all, but they are clearly hierarchical. Why, then, couldn't a marriage be hierarchical in some sense without being anything even remotely close to totalitarianism or slavery?

Totalitarian marriages most definitely exist. I'm 100% sure you agree with me on that. But that's not the only kind of hierarchy in marriage, just as it isn't the only kind of hierarchy in government or employment. Even egalitarians who are opposed to any kind of hierarchy in marriage ought to admit that an ideally complementarian marriage is not like slavery or like a totalitarian government.

My own interpretation of Paul is that he sees a hierarchy in the sense of voluntary submission by wives and husbands as a head of their wives, without tolerating anything like slavery or totalitarianism, since submission can't be both voluntary and forced. There's no command for husbands to make their wives submit. But the best representatives of complementarianism do not teach that husbands should do anything to get their wives to submit other than simply loving them.

I have never asked my wife to submit to me (never mind commanded her to do so), and I have never told her that she's not being submissive even when I believe she's not being very submissive. If she asked me, at her own initiative, I might answer honestly, but I'm not going to initiate that conversation. It's not the role I see delineated for a husband in scripture. My role is to love her self-sacrificially. I see this as hierarchical in some sense (because I have authority over her in some sense, and she has a moral obligation to submit voluntarily to that authority when discussion doesn't convince one of us away from our conflicting views). But it's nothing even remotely close to slavery or totalitarianism.

 
At Sat Mar 10, 02:11:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Why, then, couldn't a marriage be hierarchical in some sense without being anything even remotely close to totalitarianism or slavery?

A hierarchical government that is not totalitarian does not create an immutable and permanent condition of subserviance of one individual to another. A hierarchical marriage does.

Obviously the way this is translated into real life varies according to how many couples exist on earth.

If both individuals have a mutual agreement to put the other first, just giving it different labels then I can't see a problem.

However, if the career of one is sacrificed unthinkingly for the other, or freedom, or dignity or any other human need, then that is not right.

What does the wife submit to if no sacrifice of her individuality is asked? Not much, I guess. But given that we are all humans, training one half of the human race to submit to the other half is simply a recipe for disaster to me.

I believe that both men and women have an equal right to contribute to society and to express their individuality. This is not completely anomian, but rather whatever rights the husband has to arrange things for his benefit so has the wife. Whatever obligations the husband has so has the wife. This is particularly relevant later in life.

Afterall some women have to pay alimony to their exhusbands - husbands that got them in debt in the first place. Not my problem, but it certainly happens often enough. It turns out that women don't have the corner on not balancing a checkbook. Given the current laws, it is sheer nonsense to say that a man has the right to decide how the money is spent and the wife should submit.

Well, I wasn't supposed to talk about this, was I? ;-)But I understand that you are trying to justify your beliefs. I understand that. It took me a half a lifetime to change mine. Sadly.

Anyway, you know that we are influenced by a Christian community that does not permit women to have equal status in the arena of biblical lgs. so I wouldn't be very happy with that.

 
At Sat Mar 10, 06:41:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

because I have authority over her in some sense

In what sense exactly? Can you give a practical example that has some kind of universal relevance?

 
At Sat Mar 10, 07:34:00 PM, Blogger Maggie Graham said...

I wonder about that too, Suzanne. I also wonder what exegetical process people use to conclude from the Bible that husbands are authorities over their wives, and how they can reconcile this paradigm of authority-figure husbands with Ephesians 5:21 (all of us Christians submitting to one another out of reverence for the Lord).

 
At Sat Mar 10, 07:44:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

And why is making the husband feel like he has a position of authority so all-consuming and keeping women physically safe doesn't bear mention in the original biblical manhood and womanhood literature.

 
At Sat Mar 10, 08:57:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy said...

2. I believe that hierarchy in marriage is on the same level as slavery and submission to a totalitarian government. The writings of Paul may or may not have been advocating this kind of hierarchy.

Suzanne,

I should hope that you think that it "may not" have been advocating this kind of authority. If you think otherwise, it is very clear to me that you value your own opinions regarding marriage regardless of what Scripture says about the relationships between husband and wife.

Comments like these are what may me think you've formed your options about marriage apart from what the Bible says about it and then have conformed it to say what you want it to say. If not, why even add the 'may ... have been advocating this kind of hierarchy" option?

Furthermore, statements like these (equating submission in marriage to slavery) reveal you still don't understand the opposition's position very well.

Peace,

Jeremy

 
At Sat Mar 10, 11:09:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

Is it possible to consider that for Paul there was a hierarchy between husband and wife on the physical level, but not on the spiritual level. So in one sense, he supports it, and on another, as two people relate on a spiritual level, they relate as equals. He advocates hierarchy and no hierarchy.

But then what is our ideal as Christians? would it not be that of brother and sister, man and woman in Christ, not in a hierarchical relationship. It would also be reflected in the command to treat one's 'next one' as oneself.

That is, for Paul, in spiritual essence there is no difference between men and women. This contrasts with the compelementarian ethic of a complementarity of the spirit as masculine and feminine. I see no such thing as masculine and feminine Christian qualities in the scriptures. Both must be strong and courageous, both must be compassionate and patient. I don't suggest that in our sexaul embodiment we are the same, but in our ideal.

On another point, it is very clear that Paul may have been advocating that slaves remain in their present situation, but he may not have been advocating the institution of slavery, per se. He was, and he was not, advocating hierarchy.

It is very clear that Paul had a nuanced view of marriage, that one should remain celibate, that one should marry.

If you think otherwise, it is very clear to me that you value your own opinions regarding marriage regardless of what Scripture says about the relationships between husband and wife.

Quite the contrary. I am expressing modesty with regard to my insight.


Furthermore, statements like these (equating submission in marriage to slavery) reveal you still don't understand the opposition's position very well.

The 'opposition', as you put it, is not monolithic. I am making an analogy, not an equation. They do occur in parallel passages.

Would you really sit down and argue with a former slave that they should consider that since some masters are kindly, and the scriptures instructs all masters to be fair, therefore they should not be guided by their own opinions of slavery?

I have tried to be explicit and explain that that is how I take your point.

 
At Sun Mar 11, 04:44:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Suzanne, you have a ministry to many people, but a ministry that is contested by others. That puts you in the same situation as Timothy. Paul’s advice to him was:

Diligently present yourself before God so as to be approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, handling the word of truth with precision. (2 Timothy 2:15 [my version; the felicitous translation of the last phrase is borrowed from ISV])

Most translations of this verse seem to miss its point. ESV, TNIV, and ISV, for example, do not bring out the fact clearly enough that Timothy is to seek God’s approval, not the applause of those around him. NRSV gets it.

The Greek is sometimes understood in a different way. I’m not qualified to adjudicate. I quote from La Bible du Semeur for all but the last phrase, which comes from TOB:

Efforce-toi de te présenter devant Dieu en homme qui a fait ses preuves, en ouvrier qui n'a pas à rougir de son ouvrage, que dispense avec droiture la parole de vérité.
(2 Timothee 2,15)

That fits you well, Suzanne. For those who might not be aware, like Mensch in German, homme in French can (or could) be used in gender-neutral fashion. Perhaps in this day of age, it no longer comes across that way.

I don’t know for sure what nuances droiture possesses in French. I’m reading it through my favorite second language (Italian), as if it were a calque of destrezza. In English that would be dexterity.

That might as well be a knitter’s image. “Handling the word of truth with dexterity.” There’s a translation that rocks (oops! A carryover from the register of my ongoing conversation about basketball with my son Giovanni, who is a teenager).

It also describes what I see you doing, Suzanne.

 
At Sun Mar 11, 05:46:00 PM, Blogger Jim Swindle said...

Suzanne, as someone who is something of a complementarian, I first want to express my pain that people have invaded your privacy and that they have debated you instead of first hearing the pain of what you've been through. May the Lord continue guiding, using and maturing you (which, incidentally, is a benediction that is not meant as sexist nor meant to imply that I'm more mature than you; I also need maturing).

I especially liked your suggestion that "for Paul there was a hierarchy between husband and wife on the physical level, but not on the spiritual level." I'm not sure I fully understand you, but I believe the apostle rejected any idea that men were spiritually more important than women.

If, as I believe, the Lord intends for there to be somewhat different roles for men and women, then one of the first duties of a married man is to keep his wife safe, both physically and spiritually, and one of the primary duties of the leaders of a church is to protect the flock. That must include keeping the women safe and must also include encouraging them to use their gifts.

To my shame, I've not always done well at those things. May the Lord strengthen me in all that's good.

I guess I haven't really dealt with Bible translation in this comment, but Bible translators are real people, with real strengths and real wounds. We need to treasure those scholars (female or male) who sincerely strive to translate the word accurately through the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

 
At Sun Mar 11, 06:16:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jim,

I believe that the role differences apply to procreation, the basis of our physical being. Women and children need to be provided for, and if the husband is the sole person engaged in this financial provision, the wife needs to respect the husband's position.

Other than that, I am afraid I don't see it. Women are equipped with the same ability to discern and lead as men. And make financial decisions. Anything else is pretense.

Restricting women's role, and anything that says that a woman is not permitted to do those things that are good for a man to do, in terms of God's kingdom, in the spirit, is a restriction, a lessening of the woman's role.

If the woman's role is less, then it is inferior.

Look at these translations.

It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. Heb. 7:7 ESV

But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. Heb. 7:7 NASB

Complementarians need to take ownership for the term 'inferior' role for women. Anything less is dishonest.

I would like to say that physical abuse is bad enough, but psychological abuse is either worse or just as bad, but harder to identify. It is the denial of the full human dignity of another adult, to assign them the permanent inferior role in a twosome.

I think it is very telling that the bibical manhood and womanhood literature did not address abuse until they were urged to by others. It is irresponsible and has put peoples lives in danger.

Jim,

I am just spouting off, not so much at you, but in a continuation of my response to a previous comment. Don't take it personally.

 
At Mon Mar 12, 05:42:00 AM, Blogger Jason said...

Suzanne (and Wayne), thank you for this post and your comments. I won't cheapen them with an inadequate attempt to explain why they've been important to my wife and me, but please know that they have.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 09:45:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

A hierarchical government that is not totalitarian does not create an immutable and permanent condition of subserviance of one individual to another.

But marriage isn't permanent either. Last I'd heard it ends at death. It's also not immutable. It may be that the biblical principles about it are true for all our time here, but that doesn't mean they always express themselves the same way. For example, in our current context women seek employment and political positions. In some times that wouldn't have been viewed as respectful to their husbands. What counts as respectful to a husband is culturally relative, even if the principle that doing so is good is not.

I never said anything about subservience. If you read any complementarian view as involving subservience, then no wonder you're confusing it with slavery.

Complementarian marriage as I see it has pretty much equal give and take, with both partners seeking the best of the other. The only time when there needs to be a difference of authority is when the husband and wife disagreement in a way that neither is willing to consider it an issue of moral neutrality. In those cases, the husband has to decide whether his wife's convictions are more important than his own. Depending on how serious a moral issue he sees it as, it could go one way or the other. If it's about mere preferences, then authority isn't the issue, and egalitarians and complementarians should agree on those cases.

In my view, the main issue with authority in marriage is that the husband is held responsible for what happens in the marriage, whether it's at his initiative or because he refuses to take initiative. At least in our current setting, it's not taking initiative that's the main problem of husbands. It's not the taking of too much initiative. There are certainly those cases, but they are fewer in my experience (and certainly not present at all in my immediate experience, since I'm not an initiator myself, not that my wife is either).

But one thing is clear. It's not about taking authority or feeling authoritative, the way you describe it. I see no such language either in scripture or in the complementarian literature (except for weird stuff like Wild at Heart, which I think it based on some very strange notions of what it is to be male and is not typical of complementarianism as I've encountered it).

if the career of one is sacrificed unthinkingly

I never said about anyone doing anything unthinkingly. Sacrificing a career may well be a good thing, and some people might not want to do it even when it is a good thing and worth doing (and it might not be in every case). But it should never be done unthinkingly.

training one half of the human race to submit to the other half is simply a recipe for disaster to me.

Absolutely, which is why complementarians don't do that (or at least shouldn't if they're being biblical complementarians).

I believe that both men and women have an equal right to contribute to society and to express their individuality. This is not completely anomian, but rather whatever rights the husband has to arrange things for his benefit so has the wife. Whatever obligations the husband has so has the wife. This is particularly relevant later in life.

I agree but only because I don't think the husband has any such rights to begin with. So vacuously the wife has for her life all the rights the husband has to arrange his life exactly the way he wants, which are exactly none. God has no obligation to allow our lives to be the way we want to, and being male or female affects that in no way.

Given the current laws, it is sheer nonsense to say that a man has the right to decide how the money is spent and the wife should submit.

There is a lot of room for abuse when anything isn't observed in a godly way. Almost all mainstream complementarians allow for abusive relationships to count as abandonment when it comes to being able to get out of a marriage relationship. Why does abuse have to stop at physical, emotional, and verbal abuse? Can't absolutely profligate financial decisions count as abuse? I don't think it's sin for a woman leaves a husband who is abusing her (and perhaps the whole family) by not allowing for providing for the family properly (within the normal system of church discipline if he's a believer; he should have the opportunity to admit his sin and repent).

But my point is not about what a dysfunctional relationship of any sort is. Lots of dysfunctional marriages occur, and it doesn't impugn the notion of marriage, which is instituted by God. Similarly, because dysfunctional hierarchical relationships exist it doesn't mean that every kind of hierarchy is bad or that complementarian marriage need be like that.

And why is making the husband feel like he has a position of authority so all-consuming and keeping women physically safe doesn't bear mention in the original biblical manhood and womanhood literature

That's because it's not counseling literature to deal with problems in marriages. It's apologetical literature to argue for a view against the prevailing competitor, egalitarianism. There is complementarian literature that deals with such issues. It's just not the focus in the literature aimed at criticizing egalitarianism, because that's not the subject.

Is it possible to consider that for Paul there was a hierarchy between husband and wife on the physical level, but not on the spiritual level. So in one sense, he supports it, and on another, as two people relate on a spiritual level, they relate as equals. He advocates hierarchy and no hierarchy.

I wouldn't contrast physical with spiritual. I would distinguish role equality or differences from spiritual equality or difference. The physical and the spiritual are not a contrast, despite what Gnostics might have thought.

Other than that, yes, it's possible. It's in fact what complementarians insist on. Complementarians hold that Galatians 3:28 is not true of every sphere of life, just specifically referring to a spiritual truth, that men and women are spiritual equals, even in marriage. Then other passages specify that in some areas there may be authority differences. But spiritually speaking men and women are absolute equals. Role differences are a separate issue. So what you're suggesting is exactly what standard complementarianism says.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 02:21:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

We will ignore everyone's personal situation and follow the Danvers statement in defining marriage as a leadership-submission assymetric arrangement.

Yes, complementarians train women to submit!

You say,

The only time when there needs to be a difference of authority is when the husband and wife disagreement in a way that neither is willing to consider it an issue of moral neutrality.

Are you actually telling me that you think that in cases where morality is an issue, husbands have more authority than their wives?

I thought that complementarians believe the opposite, that in cases where morality is involved women obey God first.

So now we have two completely diametrically opposed definitions of complementarian marriage.

A Husbands have authority over their wives when it is a moral issue.

B Husbands have authority over wives when it is not a moral issue.

I think the most frustrating thing for me is that when talking to complementarians language ceases to have meaning.

You will drive me to recite,

Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe,
All mimsy were the morogroves
and the mome raths outgrabe

I could go on.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 05:34:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Sorry,

borogroves - I meant borogroves.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 08:03:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Suzanne,

Giving an example of teaching that wives should submit to their husbands does not count as giving any shred of support to the much stronger claim that you made, which was about training one half of the human race to submit to the other half.

The cases I was talking about were cases such as whether we should borrow money now to pay this bill or wait for the next paycheck and pay a late fee. One spouse may have convictions against borrowing in such situations, while the other does not. If I do not, say, but my wife does, perhaps I should respect her conviction and not lead her to sin (when it wouldn't be sin for me to do it). But it would be my call to make that decision rather than to make the wrong one. Either that or I should convince her that it's not wrong to borrow money in that case. (This is not a real case, by the way, so I'm not bringing in anyone's personal situation. It's just an example.)

The cases that I think complementarianism might play no role are when we disagree about what we'd like but don't have moral convictions about it. Thus giving in is giving in on personal preference. The reality is that both ought to be willing to give in to the other's preferences if there are not important considerations to prefer one preference over the other (independent of mere preference).

Now the cases you have in mind are very, very different. Those are when the husband tells the wife to do something that she knows is wrong. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about when a couple is trying to make a decision, and neither wants the other to do what they think is wrong, but they disagree on what they ought to do. It's in those cases that complementarians will have the husband decide, and egalitarians will do nothing (apparently), or one of them will just do it and anger the other one, who will insist that it's the wrong choice.

I'm not sure why you'd compare this to a poem consisting largely of archaic language that's not understandable to non-philologists. These distinctions aren't archaic. They're just not ones you're thinking of.

Jeremy

 
At Tue Mar 13, 09:08:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

Here is the context for the poem.

`I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

`But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master -- that's all.'

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. `They've a temper, some of them -- particularly verbs: they're the proudest -- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs -- however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

`Would you tell me please,' said Alice, `what that means?'

`Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. `I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'

`That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

`When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, `I always pay it extra.'


So Jeremy, you should pay your words extra, because you make lesser not mean inferior and train not mean teach, and moral not mean moral, and so on. You need to pay your words extra.

Then this,

Oh!' said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

`Ah, you should see 'em come round me of a Saturday night,' Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side, `for to get their wages, you know.'

(Alice didn't venture to ask what he paid them with; and so you see I can't tell you.)

`You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,' said Alice. `Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called "Jabberwocky"?'

`Let's hear it,' said Humpty Dumpty. `I can explain all the poems that ever were invented -- and a good many that haven't been invented just yet.'

This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:


`'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.'

`That's enough to begin with,' Humpty Dumpty interrupted: `there are plenty of hard words there. "Brillig" means four o'clock in the afternoon -- the time when you begin broiling things for dinner.'

`That'll do very well,' said Alice: `and "slithy"?'

`Well, "slithy" means "lithe and slimy". "Lithe" is the same as "active". You see it's like a portmanteau -- there are two meanings packed up into one word.'

`I see it now,' Alice remarked thoughtfully: `and what are "toves"?'

 
At Tue Mar 13, 09:55:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

Back to the discussion. You seem to set up three kinds of decisions.

1. Big moral decisions where the wife obeys God.

2. Little moral decisions where the wife obeys her husband.

3. Preferences where complementarians behave like egalitarians.

Now I would imagine that how much to pay for a house or car is a #2 decision, but which house or car, is a #3 decision. So why can't #2 decisions be resolved the way #3 decisions are, as egalitarians do. In my experience there is no more difficulty deciding how much to pay than which one to get. In fact, you are so certain that egalitarians are going to get angry at each other.

Do you have any idea how angry the divorced complementarian wife is going to feel, and there are statistically just as many if not more of those, when they discover that they are responsible for half the household debt. But of course, it doesn't concern you if only women feel angry - they seem not to have this right.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 11:10:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

For England expects -- I forbear to proceed:
'Tis a maxim tremendous, but trite
And you'd best be unpacking the things that you need.
To rig yourselves out for the fight.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 06:01:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

The Jabberwocky poem takes real words, many of them archaic, and combines them into new words, but there's a basic method to the madness. The words make sense once you see the etymology he gives them. It's not nonsense. It's just not normal English words in use in any natural language, and only some of them were actual words ever in the past. Some of them have since become real words.

But the point you seem to be making is that I'm using words in ways that they are not ever used on the grounds that they are used in other ways too, and that just doesn't follow. It's true that someone can use the word 'submit' in a context where the person submitting is a genuine inferior or is lesser in some way. But of course it misrepresents to complementarian view to take complementarians to be doing that, as I've pointed out to you over and over and over.

It's very easy to see what Wayne Grudem, for instance, means by his view that his wife ought to submit. It does not mean that he commands his wife to do things for his own sake without regard to her own well-being, and that is what people will assume when you compare it to slavery. His own personal experience of sacrificing his career to some extent to live in a place where she is more comfortable is testament to the fact that whatever he means by submission it's nothing like what people will think when you compare it to slavery.

The distinction between voluntary submission and forced servitude is as plain as day. You can call that distinction a misuse of language all you want, but it's pretty clear to me that those who refuse to acknowledge that distinction are the ones who are trying to make words mean only what they want to them to mean rather than the wider linguistic range that they actually have. I think perhaps you don't pay your words enough.

In the household debt issue, it seems to me that the problem is in assuming a wife is responsible for half the debt. Is that how divorce laws always work? I'm not sure that's in line with the facts. Maybe in no-fault divorce that's the case, but I'm not talking a no-fault context. No-fault divorce is immoral, and Christians shouldn't be engaging in it. If a woman is a victim of a husband pushing a no-fault divorce on her and then saddling her with the debt, doesn't she have legal recourse to getting it to count as a fault-based divorce? I don't know the ins and outs of divorce law, but these seem to me to be legal matters and not moral matters. The moral matter is clear. If someone asks you to walk a mile for them, the morally correct response is to walk an extra mile. This is why I think it's immoral to press our rights, whether we're male or female. Jesus tells us not to. This is an extremely high standard to meet, and of course it doesn't sound fair, but it's what Jesus says.

My point is not about anger. It's about someone needing to make a decision. Someone needs to give in and submit to the other's view at one point. If it's not as strong a moral conviction, that can be done out of love for the other. In a stronger moral conviction, neither side ought to back down in principle, and no one decides anything, or one immorally does it without the other's consent. The complementarian view is that the wife voluntarily submit to the husband on the issue and have him take responsibility for the consequences that he'd be responsible for anyway. It's not about anger. It's about how the decision can eventually be made.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 07:14:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

The distinction between voluntary submission and forced servitude is as plain as day. ... The complementarian view is that the wife voluntarily submit to the husband

But is the complementarian wife's submission to her husband voluntary, or is it said to be commanded by God with implicit penalties for non-compliance, and also potentially enforceable by the husband? That sounds to me more like forced servitude than voluntary submission.

If a woman is a victim of a husband pushing a no-fault divorce on her and then saddling her with the debt, doesn't she have legal recourse to getting it to count as a fault-based divorce?

Not if she is a submissive complementarian wife who would not go against her husband even in the divorce proceedings.

Anyway, I disagree with you that "No-fault divorce is immoral". No divorce is ideal. But when divorce becomes essential for all sorts of reasons, it does no one any good to insist on attaching blame and bringing proof of it to a court; all this does is cause bitterness and mutual recriminations. Far better to let a couple decide as amicably as possible to declare that their marriage is at an end. Since God speaking through Moses effectively allowed this, for people with hard hearts like most of us (Matthew 19:8), who are you to declare it immoral?

 
At Wed Mar 14, 07:49:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

I am afraid we have a fundamental disagreement here. I believe no-fault divorce is the only kind. There are so few battered wives who would ever even prosecute or initate a charge, let alone drag their husband through a fault divorce, if we have such a thing now. I don't suppose anyone can afford it.

What about a marriage where there was no physical abuse but the husband spent the money without consulting? That is another case I hear of commonly enough.

Why would a Christian women want to drag all this out in front of a secular court. I am afraid that you are not dealing with the real world of finance and law here.

And no I don't believe the wife herself is inferior in the complemenatarian view but she is given the lifelong inferior role. Women and wives are restricted, given boundaries and lists. Their role is less, ergo inferior.

Women have the inferior role and complementarians need to take ownership for teaching that.

You write,

Someone needs to give in and submit to the other's view at one point. If it's not as strong a moral conviction, that can be done out of love for the other.

Are you now arguing for a gradation of moral convictions, a sliding scale, or a spectrum on the moral order - not so strong, versus stronger.

I understand you to say that the middling issues are where the husband has authority. If something is clearly moral the wife must obey God, if it is vaguely moral, she must obey her husband, if it is walking the extra mile then they should both walk the extra mile. I find this fascinating.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 08:06:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

Do you remember the story of York who was William CLark's slave. He went with Clark as his companion, he carried a rifle, he had a good time, probably more fun than Clark in some ways. But he was Clark's slave.

In a twosome of companionship some master slave relationships were that of friendship. So giving me an example of a marriage of submission that doesn't sound like servitude can be countered by examples of master slave relationships that were not servitude. But that doesn't change the moral issue.

The bible talks about one's neighbour, one's fellow, one's companion and equal, and in a relationship of leadership/submission, you have to hold the submission rather lightly to create companionship, as William Clark did.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 09:12:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, you are right. I hate to echo some of the contemporary apologists for slavery who we have discussed here before. But they are right that in the ancient world, and perhaps not even in the American South, slavery was not always the cruel servitude which we moderns tend to think of. Some slaves had quite a lot of personal freedom. But they were still slaves without the right to make the basic decisions about their own lives, and so that was morally wrong. And the same applies to the inferior position of a wife in even the best complementarian marriage.

I note that even slavery voluntarily entered into is considered immoral, if only because such things are seldom truly voluntary. For the same reason even a voluntarily entered into complementarian marriage must be considered morally questionable, especially if the bride has been coerced into accepting this by male relatives and through teaching from male church leaders.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 10:20:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, I have just been thinking quite a bit about Cicero and Tiro. Maybe they were friends.

And I think women all over the world enter marriages on the basis of their own culture without any overt coersion. Yes, in some cases there is coersion but in other cases the influence is more subtle. People often just do what is expected of them.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 10:35:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

I have always endorsed the view that our moral obligations can be unclear and that lots of factors can affect what is right, where it isn't always going to be clear which ones are most relevant in a particular case or which ones tip the hat when conflicting ones apply. Vagueness when it comes to what our obligations are is not a problem as long as you also hold that the strength of our obligations can vary with it. In some cases there might be moral reasons to do X and other moral reasons to do not-X. It may well be that if the reasons are equally good, then someone can be justified in doing either. If there is some tipping one way but not much, then it's not so wrong to do the other. If the reasons strongly point one way, then it's very wrong to do the other. Is this that strange a view?

As for slavery, I don't at all want to concede that slavery is always immoral, because the Bible clearly states otherwise. We are freed from slavery to sin to be slaves of Christ. It's what you're a slave to that determines whether it's good or bad. We're all slaves. Slavery to a perfect master is what we want, because if we aren't slaves to God then we're slaves to something else.

But in the human case slavery comes in varying degrees, if slavery is just being beholden to some other person. I'm a slave of my employers in a fairly weak sense of the term. They tell me what I have to do, and I can't not do it. If in the middle of my contract, I don't want to continue, too bad. I agreed to do it. Indentured servanthood is a stronger kind of slavery but still far short of NT slavery, which yet again is a good deal short of race-based American slavery. I'm well up on these issues and have in fact written a good deal on them on my own blog.

But what I'm saying is that when you compare something to slavery, the pragmatics of making the comparison restrict it to the usual examples of slavery that people have in mind when they make such comparisons. The typical technique is to compare something to slavery so that people will call to mind everything about West African enslavement by colonial European powers. The speech act of making that comparison amounts to taking the strongest sense of slavery.

Since I don't think there's anything wrong with some of the weaker kinds of slavery (e.g. employment or perhaps even indentured servanthood), I'm not going to push the point on those. In some ways maybe a complementarian is like those (but I don't think it is in every way).

But that's not what it amounts to when you compare something with slavery. Such a comparison automatically assumes the strongest kind of slavery, because that's the perlocutionary force of such a comparison even if it's not your intended illocutionary force. (I'm assuming you're familiar with these linguistic terms. If not, I can explain them.)

One problem with using terms like 'inferior' is similar. It carries the suggestion of more than just functional differences, and since complementarianism doesn't necessarily involve those then it's misleading to describe the view with that term.

There's a sense of inferiority in which one person has a moral responsibility to make a decision that affects other people, but the inferiority there is not about one person being inferior to the other. It's about a structure in a relationship. If you add the element that one position in that structure is better than the other, then you are infecting the view with elements that someone holding the view doesn't believe. Complementarians do not accept that any role being discussed is inferior in the sense that one is better or worse. If it's inferior only in the sense that one includes more than the other, than it's misleading to call it inferior. It suggests that you're assuming that bigger is better. The more you can do, the better you are. Complementarians just don't accept that. So it would be misleading to use that term.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 12:56:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

Who decides when something is moral or not in that context? The husband I assume, he decides matters of his wife's conscience.

Regarding speech act theory, thanks for assuming I understand it. It had indeed been invented before I went to university.

You write,

But what I'm saying is that when you compare something to slavery, the pragmatics of making the comparison restrict it to the usual examples of slavery that people have in mind when they make such comparisons.

I think we established some time ago that you and I have a classical education.

Since I don't think there's anything wrong with some of the weaker kinds of slavery (e.g. employment or perhaps even indentured servanthood), I'm not going to push the point on those. In some ways maybe a complementarian is like those (but I don't think it is in every way).

But indeed it is in some way! And certainly you cannot be saying that a gender-based slavery is better than a race-based slavery.

Is marriage then more like

1. gender-based slavery

2. indentured servanthood

3. employee - employer relationship

4. a friendship of nonequals in which one is forever beholden to the other for their favour?

All of them delightful.


Complementarians do not accept that any role being discussed is inferior in the sense that one is better or worse. If it's inferior only in the sense that one includes more than the other, than it's misleading to call it inferior. It suggests that you're assuming that bigger is better. The more you can do, the better you are. Complementarians just don't accept that.

How about this? The more decisions you can make for yourself the better you feel. But complementarians relieve women of making certain decisions.

I prefer to say that complementarians give the inferior role to women, but obviously you understand the language of 'more' and 'less' better. So complementarians give the lesser role to the wife.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 01:46:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

As for slavery, I don't at all want to concede that slavery is always immoral, because the Bible clearly states otherwise.

Bravo! And I don't want to concede that there is anything wrong with throwing Christians to the lions, because if it was good enough for Nero, it is good enough for me.

But I really must complain that you don't go far enough in your complementarian position. Now, in Saudia Arabia, they know how to do things right. There, a woman who was a rape victim recently received 90 lashes:

A Saudi woman who was kidnapped at knifepoint, gang-raped and then beaten by her brother has been sentenced to 90 lashes -- for a meeting a man who was not a relative, a newspaper reported on Monday. In an interview with the Saudi Gazette, the 19-year-old said she was blackmailed a year ago into meeting a man who threatened to tell her family they were having a relationship outside wedlock, which is illegal in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom. After driving off together from a shopping mall near her home, the woman and the man were stopped and abducted by a gang of men wielding kitchen knives who took them to a farm where she was raped 14 times by her captors. Five men were arrested for the rape and given jail terms ranging from 10 months to five years by a panel of judges in the eastern city of Qatif, near the woman’s hometown.

But the judges also decided to sentence the woman, identified by the newspaper only as “G,” and the man to lashes for being alone together in the car. Unrelated men and women are forbidden from interacting in public in Saudi Arabia, which strictly enforces Islamic Sharia law. “G” said one of the judges told her she was lucky not to have been given jail time.


Now that's God fearing thinking! You know there is a lot that complementarians can learn about relations between men and women from Saudia Arabia. (What a pity that they are all Amalekites, and will have to be exterminated, because that is what the Bible clearly says.)

 
At Wed Mar 14, 02:20:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Jeremy, I realise that we need to define slavery, but I am startled to read your definition "slavery is just being beholden to some other person. I'm a slave of my employers in a fairly weak sense of the term." If slave can be such a weak word, it has lost its meaning. An employee who is able to terminate their work commitment by giving reasonable notice is not a slave, and it cheapens the term to suggest that they are. Work contracts lasting many years with no get-out clause are rightly restricted by law, at least here in the UK, because they are judged as too close to slavery. A work contract for life would certainly be illegal, or at least unenforceable, even if voluntarily entered into. And it seems to me that that is what a complementarian marriage is equivalent to, at least if no-fault divorce is not accepted. Just as the lifelong work contract would be invalid and morally wrong however attractive the conditions, so also complementarian marriage should be considered invalid and morally wrong. What keeps marriage from being morally wrong is that it is consists of mutual submission rather than one-sided exercise of rights.

So says someone who has no experience of marriage, and none for 15 years of employment!

 
At Wed Mar 14, 04:04:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Peter, have you heard of a wage slave? It's a fairly common concept in political philosophy, and it's not restricted to Marxists (despite the way Wikipedia presents it).

There are several elements that make for slavery. The various things we call slavery are a family resemblance class, with several elements none of which is essential for slavery. Many of those are present in employment to a much lesser degree than in the paradigm cases of slavery. I think those who speak of wage slaves aren't misusing language, as long as they're clear that it's a weaker sense of the term. But it seems clear to me that the concepts involved in slavery all admit of vagueness, and therefore as you decrease any of them you make something less and less a clear case of slavery. Ordinary employment seems to me to be a very weak case, but it still has some of those elements.

Joseph is a slave when he is a mere worker for Potiphar and when he is prime minister for Pharaoh. Eliezer of Damascus was Abraham's slave but also his heir. He was probably the same slave who went to the old country to seek a wife for Isaac, almost a right-hand man rather than what we think of as a slave in our contemporary context. I think it's pretty clear that Jacob was a slave during his two seven-year work contracts for Laban, but I don't think his status as a slave really changed when he was working for sheep and goats for six more years rather than for his wives for the first fourteen.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 04:26:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Suzanne,

Who decides when something is moral or not in that context?

Wouldn't that be God? We're not dealing with moral relativism here. Something doesn't become right or wrong for the wife simply because the husband says so. That would certainly be a novel theory of morality, but it's not what complementarians hold.

Now if you want to know how a husband and wife decide which matters fall into each category, then that's up to them. If the one of them thinks something is of great moral importance that the other thinks isn't, then it's a simple matter of giving in to the weaker brother or sister. If they agree, however, then they agree. So where's the problem? So the meta-level of deciding which level it falls in seems to me to be a non-problem.

We know something about the classical world, yes. Still, statements that in our current context sound very broad-sweeping are not going to have a different impact just because I know the wider semantic range of the term 'slavery'. In the pragmatics of the situation, it still sounds as if you're comparing it to paradigm cases of slavery. (See your list of options 1-4, which shows that your primary use of the term 'slavery' is contrasted with things like indentured servanthood).

This is very much like when people compare some public figure to Hitler. Then when they're pressed on it, they insist that they didn't mean to say anything more than that they're both persuasive speakers who have views they disagree with. The pragmatics of mentioning Hitler are that you compare someone to everything Hitler was about when you compare them to Hitler, unless you very carefully state that you are only comparing them in a very small way, and even then you're treading on dangerous ground.

I don't see how it's any different with slavery, since the paradigm cases of slavery constitute one of the worst evils ever perpetuated by human beings.

Is marriage then more like
1. gender-based slavery
2. indentured servanthood
3. employee - employer relationship
4. a friendship of nonequals in which one is forever beholden to the other for their favour?


5. a friendship of equals in which one is regularly and temporarily voluntarily submits to the other out of respect for the Lord (rather than out of any inferiority), while the other sacrificially loves the first in a way that in practice often looks similar enough to submission that the mutual submission model is in practice very similar to the complementarian model, with only occasional practical differences.

I don't know of any complementarian marriages that relieve the wives of being part of any important decision. I do know of some traditional patriarchal marriages like that, but that's not complementarianism. Complementarianism is intended as the mediating position between that sort of view and egalitarianism.

As for more and less, I don't even think that's precise enough, and when you put in those terms without qualification it's as misleading as all the other things you keep saying. It sounds as if you're still using it as evaluative language. Replacing one illegitimately evaluative term with another doesn't change the fact that you're using evaluative terms, and it's the evaluative component that complementarians deny. There's nothing normatively better or worse about the different roles, according to complementarians. The traditional patriarchal views did hold such a thing, as if the kinds of things women have long done are less important, less intelligent, less moral, etc.

About the only thing I can think of at the moment that's less is authority over a smaller sphere, and even that isn't necessarily accurate. It might be that it's authority over a smaller sphere within the family but authority over the entire nation as a president or prime minister. That's certainly not authority over a smaller sphere. So I'm not even going to grant that without qualification.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 07:37:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Ordinary employment seems to me to be a very weak case, but it still has some of those elements

You are saying then that an ordinary complementarian marriage may indeed be a very weak case, but it still has some of those elements. And since most of us are employees in a hierarchical system, there is nothing wrong with an insitution in which one class of human beings is in the employee role to their partner, who is in a different class of human beings, for life.

I don't see how it's any different with slavery, since the paradigm cases of slavery constitute one of the worst evils ever perpetuated by human beings.

And I am saying that sometimes the condition of women is one of the worst evils ever perpetuated by human beings. That is what the example from Saudi Arabia was about.

a friendship of equals in which one is regularly and temporarily voluntarily submits to the other out of respect for the Lord (rather than out of any inferiority), while the other sacrificially loves the first in a way that in practice often looks similar enough to submission

I have not said that anyone thinks the wife is actually inferior although certainly some complementarians do teach that, including a raft of nonsense about women not being as logical as men, when clearly women compete very well with men on verbal IQ. So there is a certain group willing to jettison reality.

But the others seem willing enough to share their life with someone they admit is an ontological equal but who will never experience role equality within their lifetime. The husband will never offer to the wife the one thing he most values in life - self-determination. Or he might mete it out in exchange for something else.

In any case, you seem willing to admit that the complementarian marriage is closer on the spectrum to slavery than the egalitarian marriage is.

There's nothing normatively better or worse about the different roles, according to complementarians.

You are claiming that there is nothing better about being the leader than being the follower. Then the concept of slavery would not exist, centred as it is around the exercise of self-will. The husband is to exercize self-will and the wife to submit. This is grievously abused. Women suffer more violence within the home than outside the home and some Christian communities simply want to tighten the reins of the husbands ao they can protect women?

And the bible wouldn't say to aspire to the higher gifts such as teaching and apostlehsip, there would be no such thing as higher gifts.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 10:05:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Guess I was in a hurry to finish that up.

Jeremy,

Let me repeat myself. I do not wish to discuss marriage with you or anyone else. That is what this post is about. I consider it to be the height of poor taste for a very inexperienced young man like yourself to preach submission to an older woman who is a few weeks out of a physically abusive situation. Just think about it. You obviously don't have much respect for women. The first thing that leaps to your mind is putting them back in their place. Pronto.

I hope you are not in a pastoring role in your church. Fortunately, my own pastor had the sense to realize that I did not want this sermon, so he bit his tongue.

I think you should develop a few manners. Ask you wife if the first thing an abused woman needs to hear about is the beauty of submission.

It is like you sitting down with a runaway slave and explaining to him the beauty of willing submission to a benevolent master. I can just see you doing this. Good luck. Walk a few steps in those shoes first.

 
At Thu Mar 15, 06:01:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Suzanne, I think I misread you in your post. I thought you had said that you didn't want to be asked awkward questions about your own personal situation but would be happy to discuss the biblical issues. The reason I took you that way is because you mentioned emails with people challenging you on personal matters that I think they have no business challenging you on, and I thought it was that kind of behavior that you were ruling out. As I look at the post again, I realize that you must have meant something different.

So I was trying to stay completely clear of those things and keep it to the issues. I have thus specifically not discussed your experience or what ought to be done in such situations and insisted on keeping this to what complementarians believe and how you have misrepresented the position. I have made distinctions between positions. I have pointed out what the complementarian view does hold and what it does not hold. What I have not done is told you personally what you ought to do or preached to you. I haven't even been argued for the complementarian position. What I have done is point out where you have misrepresented your intellectual opponent, thus offering a corrective to your slanderous charges.

So I'm sorry for misinterpreting what you wanted to rule out as off-limits, but I'm not sorry for wanting to correct your misrepresentation of complementarianism. I don't think I need to apologize for not wanting to be slandered, but I'm not going to bother responding to some of your representations of me (and of what I've said in this comment thread) in your last couple comments that I don't think are remotely fair.

 
At Thu Mar 15, 07:50:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

You wrote,

What I have not done is told you personally what you ought to do or preached to you.

but you did write this,

I should hope that you think that it "may not" have been advocating this kind of authority. If you think otherwise, it is very clear to me that you value your own opinions regarding marriage regardless of what Scripture says about the relationships between husband and wife.

Comments like these are what may me think you've formed your options about marriage apart from what the Bible says about it and then have conformed it to say what you want it to say. If not, why even add the 'may ... have been advocating this kind of hierarchy" option?


Your tone is rude and preachy. Your accusations are entirely without logical basis. They serve no useful purpose.

I said that I don't want to be asked awkward questions about marriage and I mean marriage in general, Jeremy, not just my marriage. I would like to change the subject.

I find the discussion of submission and slavery to be personally unpleasant - how can I impress this on you?

You seem incapable of understanding the simplest sentence. I don't actually mention complementarians in my post. You have chosen to self-identify with hierarchy in marriage.

I thank God for feminism and the secular law, Jeremy, because they have given me physical security. That is the main point of my post. You completely ignore this part of the post - the part that has any substance.

Endlessly meting out how much hierarchy a marriage can sustain before its becomes slavery is just not my thing. I would rather not think about it.

Jeremy,

I do not want to talk about marriage, especially hierarchical marriage, because it reminds me of slavery.

This is what I was trying to say in my post. You cannot stop it from reminding me of slavery. So really there is nothing to argue about.

We can talk about other issues in bible translation, like gender and language or women leaders in the church. I am okay with that.

There - is that so hard to understand? What have I not made clear?

 
At Thu Mar 15, 07:59:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I reread my post and this is what I wrote,

I believe that hierarchy in marriage is on the same level as slavery and submission to a totalitarian government.

I did not identify any intellectual opponents - you somehow think yourself to be one.

 
At Thu Mar 15, 10:28:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Jeremy, I accept that the language of slavery, usually with qualifications like "wage slave", can be used of concepts which are weaker than traditional slavery. But I don't think this is what Suzanne had in mind when she started this discussion by writing "I believe that hierarchy in marriage is on the same level as slavery and submission to a totalitarian government."

So how does it help our discussions here to bring in this weaker definition of slavery? To rephrase one of Suzanne's questions, would you really sit down and argue with a former slave that they should consider that because employment is sometimes called "wage slavery", therefore they should not be guided by their own opinions of slavery?

It seems to me that you are trying to undermine the case that slavery is morally wrong, one that was established here in the UK 200 years ago this month, by confusing true slavery with something which has some similarities with it but is not so clearly wrong. Indeed you make this aim specific by writing "I don't at all want to concede that slavery is always immoral".

It seems to me that the essentially immoral aspect of slavery is not the hard work or the cruelty sometimes involved, although the latter is immoral for separate reasons, but the lack of personal freedom and having someone else in control of one's life, not temporarily by an agreement which can be terminated at reasonavle notice, but permanently with no way out. Joseph's slavery was immoral even when he was Prime Minister.

 
At Thu Mar 15, 10:49:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Now if you want to know how a husband and wife decide which matters fall into each category, then that's up to them. If the one of them thinks something is of great moral importance that the other thinks isn't, then it's a simple matter of giving in to the weaker brother or sister. If they agree, however, then they agree. So where's the problem? So the meta-level of deciding which level it falls in seems to me to be a non-problem.

What if they agree that it is a matter of great moral importance but have different views? For an example off the top of my head, suppose the wife is pregnant with a child who it is known will be born severely handicapped. One partner may believe it is immoral to bring such a child into the world and want an abortion. The other partner may reject that on the basis that abortion is always immoral. Or one partner may believe that it is right to obey some morally dubious law on the basis of Romans 13:1 whereas the other may believe that it is wrong to do something immoral even if commanded by the state. In such cases who is to decide? That is not a non-problem.

[Marriage is like] a friendship of equals in which one is regularly and temporarily voluntarily submits to the other

Temporary? I thought you didn't accept no-fault divorce. So you can't say that marriage is temporary, but must insist that, like slavery, it is normally life-long. Well, masters can free their slaves, but you don't accept that husbands can free their wives, so the situation of wives is actually worse than that of slaves. Of course all wrongs will be righted after death, but the fact that slaves will be free in heaven is not a good argument for slavery!

There's nothing normatively better or worse about the different roles, according to complementarians.

Whatever kind of language complementarians try to weave around their teaching, the facts are indisputable, that their teaching that wives must submit to husbands, but not vice versa, implies a hierarchy in which wives have a lower or lesser status than husbands; or at the very least a different status which is different in a way which is morally unacceptable.

 
At Thu Mar 15, 11:34:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Suzanne, I wasn't going to continue this, but I'm not going to allow you to attribute comments to me that I didn't write without pointing out that the other Jeremy who has been commenting on this blog for at least a few months now is not me. I deliberately stayed out of that discussion, because I knew it was going well beyond the limits you had set.

Follow the link from that Jeremy's comment to her (yes, her) Blogger profile, which in turn has a link to a blog that is not mine. That Jeremy never leaves a last name. I always do. I have disagreed with that Jeremy in comments before. I'm surprised you never registered the presence of two Jeremys in the comments before.

Peter, I'm not going to continue this conversation here since Suzanne very obviously is going to read everything I say in the light of things that I don't believe. I will clarify one thing, though. When I said marriage is temporary, it didn't have anything to do with divorce. Our lives here are temporary. In the resurrection there will be no marriage. So marriage is temporary.

 
At Thu Mar 15, 12:17:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I'm surprised you never registered the presence of two Jeremys in the comments before.

Jeremy,

I apologize. I did not realize this. It was an honest error - I'm human! Well, I can't think what her point was.


You wrote,

Why, then, couldn't a marriage be hierarchical in some sense without being anything even remotely close to totalitarianism or slavery?

My view is that if a marriage is hierarchical in some sense, it is slavery in some sense. You seem to have many senses of slavery - so do I.


There - your view and my view - better?

 
At Thu Mar 15, 01:59:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I would say that it is like slavery in that it is a lifelong hierarchy in which one person decides things for the other, and that the leadership-submission roles are assigned on the basis of immutable (relatively) characteristics from birth.

 

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