True strength lies in submission which permits one to dedicate his life, through devotion, to something beyond himself. – Henry Miller
On Saturday, I went to a wedding. Who doesn’t love weddings?
A lot of people are more excited about marriages now that the U.S. is becoming more inclusive about who it extends the “rights and privileges thereof” to these days.
But that is marriage equality under the law.
I am increasingly concerned about cultural norms in the context of heterosexual marriage that threaten equality among beings.
Let me explain what I mean.
Back to the event on Saturday, the suits were quirky, the bride radiant, and the children attendants were adorable. So far, so good, right?
I got thrown for a loop though when the vows turned out to be different for the groom and bride.
No, it wasn’t because they had written it themselves or personalized them.
These were vows meted out to them by the officiating pastor. For him, the pastor asked that “God might grant him the wisdom to lead and for her.” For her, he prayed that “she would be faithful to the spirit of submissiveness to heed his leadership.”
Yes, I know that for many Christians, “him” being the head and “her” being the body are part and parcel of honoring how God designed marriage to be, right? It’s in the books of Ephesians and Titus and Corinthians etc.
But there are different perceptions about how the command to submit can be interpreted.
Here is what I have problems with:
1) Ephesians 5:25 says: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The metaphor of loving your bride as Christ loves the Church is a powerful one. It is a laudable aspiration, but unlikely to materialize even when people are diligent. Remember God is not a man or a woman. Despite the use of gendered pronouns and his human incarnation as male, the Holy Trinity does not have body, nor did Jesus have any of our human flaws, like pride, insecurity, or greed.
2) Ephesians 5:24 says: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” According to the narrow interpretations of scriptures, it places the man in a position of unquestioned authority in the household. This creates a lot of space for even a well-meaning person to become a tyrant. Remember, even the President of the United States is subject to checks and balances for very good reasons. Also, the power of the crucifixion is that Jesus decided to die for our sins. That is agency. This constraining language removes agency from the woman.
3) Often there is undue focus on masculine and femininity, but Galatians 3:26-29 tells us: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Marriage is a deeply personal institution and one of the few that is all encompassing of a person’s life. Creating such a strict binary can force people to “perform” gender norms that may or may not reflect who they authentically are as a person, nor the person Christ called them to be.
Now, let me also say something about the prevailing liberal discourse. I’ll be brief.
There isn’t any such thing as a 50/50 relationship. Having this sort of tit-for-tat mentality would also certainly encourage distress. What matters is both parties feel that their counterpart is working for the benefit of the marriage, even if this is done in distinct ways.
Personally, I think it is time that we re-imagine adulthood and fulfilling relationships. Demographics and the economy are forcing this, but it can also be done intentionality.
it’s simple. Keep each other informed and be considerate. Celebrate the talents, show mercy for the weakness and forgive the shortcomings, while still insisting on the best from each other. And above all, let the good times roll.