Are Christian Feminists Hurting Their Cause?

by Mike Duran · 540 comments

I’ve confessed to being in no-man’s land in the Complementarianism / Egalitarianism debate.  While I think it’s pretty clear Scripturally that Men and Women were designed to complement each other and that, in that union, men were called and equipped to lovingly lead, I also believe there’s far too much evidence (both Scriptural and sociological), that women are entirely capable of leading men and teaching men, exercising equal authority, and pretty much occupying any office or role that a man could. That said, the longer I remain here and watch the debate escalate, the more I’ve found myself inching to one side.

The current “Christian feminist” movement is doing more to push me towards Complementarianism than just about anything.

It’s not because their arguments are weaker. Frankly, they have some great arguments. It’s not because their message doesn’t resonate culturally and biblically. I think it very much does.

It’s because of how they come off.

I realize this is completely subjective and anecdotal. But give me a chance to show you what I mean.

Several months ago, Emily Wierenga wrote what I considered a thoughtful post at Prodigal Magazine entitled The lost art of servanthood (a letter to my feminist sisters). Emily’s point — at least the point I got —  was that in their fight for “equality,” Christian woman might be losing “the art of servanthood.”

I fear for us, sisters.

I fear we’ve become too angry to serve, to be opened up to a larger purpose.

I fear we’ve lost the art of servanthood.

Emily concluded,

…When we stop being afraid of what men can do to us, or angry about what they have done, and start serving the God whose image they are made in, then men will start filling our church pews again.

And our husbands will rise up to their full potential to be spiritual leaders, to be prophets and priests of integrity and Pentecost, to be speakers into lives and providers of families and protectors of daughters and mentors of sons.

I celebrate us, sisters.

Not because of our gender.

But because of one man, and what He did for us.

Her tone was gracious and, I think, her point was relevant. However, the comments exploded (and are now at over 500). Some took exception to the examples Emily used, mainly of a Lebanese friend who remained in an abusive situation and won her husband to Christ, as well as Emily’s reference in the comment section that “Men are called on to submit to Jesus Christ, and women are called to submit to their husbands.” The notion that men would “rise up to their full potential” as their wife served was also lambasted.

But the tone of the comments hardly seemed commensurate to the tone of the article.

For instance, Alise suggested that Emily’s article “glorified abuse”:

“Pieces like this that glorify abuse are part of what have kept someone near to me in an abusive marriage for nearly 13 years.”

Diana called the post “downright irresponsible,” while Danielle cautioned Emily to be “excruciatingly careful about not using stories as a ways to preach an agenda or knock a different agenda (i.e. feminism) down.” Laurel intoned, “What a horrible message to send into our society.” Rose wondered if Emily was “capable of having a conversation that is in any way based in reality and not self-destructive hatred of women.”

Stephanie sniped, “This reads like The Onion,” While Angela scolded, “Shame on you Emily. Take a punch in the name of Jesus is some major twisting of scripture.” Bethany suggested the devil got the best of Emily: “I think the enemy used that amazing story to confuse you about what is and isn’t servitude.”

Then there was Elizabeth who openly wondered,

“Emily, are you being abused right now? I’m serious. Are you attending an abusive church? Because there is something going on here that is NOT just about defending a ‘biblical, Scriptural’ view of servanthood. And I have no idea WHAT is going on but SOMETHING is happening to you that is NOT OK. …your pieces have become increasingly worrisome to me. I have seen this pattern before where abused women start defending abusive behavior. I just want you to know we love you. You are not alone. Whatever it is that you are experiencing right now, you are not alone. There is help. We love you.”

Elizabeth later apologized, while Claire defended the emotional tone of the conversation this way:

“I really don’t get why people keep saying that these comments are ’emotional’…as if that was a bad thing. An unemotional or dismissive response to stories of abuse is a sign of an unempathetic psychopath in my opinion.”

But by then, the bandwagon was tottering from the weight of indignation and acerbic rhetoric.

  • “unempathetic psychopath”
  • “shame on you”
  • “glorified abuse”
  • “downright irresponsible”
  • “What a horrible message”
  • “self-destructive hatred of women”
  • “are you being abused right now?”

Frankly, Emily Wierenga’s “feminist sisters” were in attack mode. Which is ironic when they are so often the ones to appeal to… civil dialog.

Whether right or wrong, I felt sorry for Emily. She hung in there, appeared gracious in answering the challenges. But she was being unnecessarily piled on. Don’t get me wrong — some of the objectors had reasonable points. They just got steam-rolled by the snark and self-righteous indignation of supporters. The spirit of Emily’s post did not deserve the reception it received. Sure, there are things worth debating and disagreeing with in her piece. But scolding her? Claiming she’s glorifying abuse? Wondering if she’s actually in an abusive situation? Sorry. Her post had been hijacked by a movement seeking traction. From my perspective, they are losing ground with feeding frenzies like that.

I realize this is completely anecdotal. Subjective. Deciding what is Scriptural can’t be left to responses on one blog post or one’s experience with the representatives of any given position. Just because a Christian feminist is rude — or a Calvinist, Universalist,  Atheist, whoever! — does not mean their position is wrong. Bad manners and blog misconduct don’t invalidate someone’s position. Nor does grace and diplomacy validate one’s position.

Nevertheless, the comments and reactions on Emily’s post have caused me to ask whether or not Christian feminists are actually doing more to hurt, rather than help, their cause.

* * *

UPDATE: July 15, 2013 — Since this post continues to receive traffic and generated so much feedback, I thought it would be appropriate to link to the blog posts and discussions it has generated.


Heather Day Gilbert July 8, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Agreed, Mike. The very ones who want to talk “rationally” about these things are the ones throwing around all kinds of false arguments, from straw man to bandwagon to whatever. WHY is is so bad for us to be servants, whether women OR men? Wasn’t Christ the ultimate example?

Tim George July 8, 2013 at 10:22 AM

I predict you will get quite the response this one my friend.

Amy July 8, 2013 at 10:29 AM

I’ve personally found that I have the most actual power when I willingly submit to authority. Doesn’t matter if it’s my husband, my pastor, my boss… whatever.

I had a friend who used to talk about how she and her husband were so equal in everything. Turns out, he didn’t really want equality – he wanted her to do everything. He ended up quitting his job at one point, and still expected her to cook dinner, clean the house, etc. while he sat home and played video games all day. They ended up divorced.

On the other hand, I would talk to her about how my husband and I talked about things, but I would leave final decisions up to him. We still – 20+ years later – have a very balanced and loving relationship.

That’s obviously a really small sample, but I’ve seen it many many times.

Kate July 8, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Did you ever consider that these women might come across as angry because they ARE angry due to the staggering amounts of violence towards women and systematic oppression of women that still goes on today?
I read Emily’s post when it first came out, and as someone who has been in an abusive relationship with a “nice christian guy” that everyone looks up to as a spiritual leader, I can honestly say that the type of rhetoric used in Emily’s post is extremely dangerous to readers who might either be an abuser or be in abusive situations themselves. And yeah, I’m angry about that.

Michael Trimmer March 19, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Did you ever consider that while there is a right time to be angry, there is also a wrong time. Being perpetually angry doesn’t make anyone listen to you.

Nicole July 8, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Mike, I’m not looking to get clobbered and shredded here by “Christian Feminists”, but I no doubt will because the connotation that “feminist” has held to my generation, the term (CF) is an oxymoron. I agree with your premise/explanation before you got into the story concerning Emily and her detractors. Equal in Christ, able to do whatever He calls us (females) to do because He equips us, leads us, and provides the grace needed to fulfill our various roles.

I don’t see what abuse has to do with feminism. Abuse from anyone to anyone is not acceptable, and that means in marriage. What that leads an individual to do or not do is between them and their loved ones and God.

I’ve worked for women who’ve been exceptional, and I’ve worked for women who were abusive. I’ve been paid equally to men in my limited roles and less than men in same roles. I’ve even been paid more than men in equal roles. I appreciate women who’ve fought for fair and equitable treatment where none existed. I appreciate those who persisted to get us the vote. I don’t equate any of it with feminism.

Feminism is not a word I associate with any kind of desirable role for a female (and, yes, I know Katherine Coble that you consider yourself a Christian feminist. And you’re a decent and important woman.)

I do associate feminism with snark, militarism in defending their positions, and abusive defense of the term. I repeat: this is just my opinion.

Don D July 8, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Connotation is subjective. Denotation is not. It’s unfortunate that you’ve let your personal connotation(s) of the word “feminism” cloud your apprehension of it’s actual definition.

Nicole July 8, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Don, I was around when the term feminism came into its “flower”. I don’t think it’s “unfortunate” at all that I base my subjectivity on the perpetual evidence of the connotation rather than the denotation. The connotation has yet to be proven wrong by most of those who title themselves “feminists”.

Don D July 8, 2013 at 1:56 PM

Yet, still…

…words mean things. You’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts — or definitions in this case.

Nicole July 8, 2013 at 3:03 PM

Yet, still.

How many words have changed their initial meanings over the years due to connotation? They’ve become redefined through the evolutions of the behaviors of those who incorporate them. You’re saying it’s “unfortunate” for me to rely on my perspective/opinion of the word and to let it “cloud my apprehension of its actual definition” means what? I rarely use the word. And if you can honestly state that those who call themselves “feminists” don’t conjure up a particular image/persona, then good for you.

Don D July 9, 2013 at 9:55 AM

As one watches the changes of words over time it is important to discern whether those changes are the function of natural usage in the arena of self-definition by a group, or the externally imposed accumulation of propaganda. Since you clearly don’t consider yourself one of “them,” you’re simply not in a position to be the one who gets to determine the definition.

Of course the word conjures images for me. It conjures images of thousands of women and men who have struggled for the advances you, and my daughters, enjoy today. Advances like the ones you claimed in your earlier post.

The images I have are of people who’ve worked hard and sacrificed. Do I know people who fit the cartoonish image you offer. Of course. However, they are no more than a predictable fringe minority of the whole. Your dependence on that sensational minority image for your understanding of the whole is the unfortunate part.

A better response might be a little gracious gratitude rather than helping turn their name into a slur.

I’ll give you the last word. I’ve tired of this…

Nicole July 9, 2013 at 11:22 AM

As am I. Last words: You’re entitled to your opinion. And last time I checked “feminist” defined a group of women, not men. The group who invented this word were self-absorbed, shrill, antagonistic toward all men, and militant. Not much has changed. The original women who fought for the “advances” did so without the boisterous negativity associated with the feminist movement, so when Christian women take on the personality of the original movement rather than that of Jesus, suffice it to say I find it ugly.

Johne Cook July 9, 2013 at 11:36 AM

Like. (I was thinking similar things on my way to work this morning but couldn’t find a way that I, as a man, could say them without appearing sexist.)

Rose August 2, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Using the word ‘shrill’ shows that we still need feminism.
Would you ever use the word ‘shrill’ to describe men with strong opinions?
I’m still a feminist but no longer a Christian. Like Huckleberry Finn I say “alright then I’ll go to hell.” If being a Christian means being sexist and homophobic then I am content not to be one.

Johne Cook August 2, 2013 at 1:34 PM

That’s like doubling-down on a losing bet. If ‘shrill’ means ‘high-pitched and piercing’ and that’s an impression that a number of men in this thread have used to describe Christian Feminists (the topic of the post) as well as some /women,/ it would seem to me the solution would be more winsome, not more strident.

Btw, Christ was neither sexist nor homophobic and Christians – by definition – aim to be more like him. If your problem is with Christians, well, get in line. But if your problem is with Christ, you have deeper problems than descriptive language.

Cote July 8, 2013 at 5:35 PM

Nicole, you said ‘I don’t see what abuse has to do with feminism. Abuse from anyone to anyone is not acceptable, and that means in marriage. What that leads an individual to do or not do is between them and their loved ones and God.’

I would encourage you to learn about dynamics of abuse. It is definitely not just between an individual, loved ones and God but it is part of a system where you and I are either witnesses or silent bystanders, which is a way to allow abuse to happen.
I am a domestic violence specialist, I am a therapist and I am a Christian and yes, I affirm feminist sensibilities. Whenever I hear push back against feminists like the kind you and Mike have expressed, it is often related to the kind of ‘discomfort’ that violence, oppression and abuse brings up among the misinformed.
As Judith Herman said in her classic ‘Trauma and Recovery: from domestic violence to political terror,’ oppression and violence force us to take sides. We can either name it and advocate for its victims or we can remain silence. The victim asks us to speak up while the perpetrator asks us to do the most easy thing–remain silent, ignore, and move on.
‘Feminism’ is not a rant; is a response to ‘Virilism,’ ‘Patriarchy.’ Maybe you are privileged enough to ignore oppression and get to sit and choose what feminism looks like to you. In the meantime, there are actual victims who today have more chance of safety because of the tireless work of the feminist movement you so call an oxymoron. Feminism is an attempt, right or wrong, toward liberation. Liberation is Jesus’ ministry. I think feminism and true Christianity have more in common than you think.

Sara July 8, 2013 at 6:56 PM

Thank you, Cote. This is perfectly stated.

Nicole July 9, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Cote, you don’t know anything about me and my experiences with abuse, whether personal or via others. There’s no excuse for it. Zero. And why you or anyone else thinks “feminism” is the rescue or salvation of abuse victims, no, I don’t get that. Some violent offenders repeat what they experienced. Others are demonically inspired. People need courageous rescuers as you described, those willing to help and not ignore this violence. For you to insist that feminism is at the heart of it – to associate feminism with “true Christianity” – is to take a human term which was built on not a really great movement in its original group and give it more value than it deserves.

I admire and respect your profession, but I don’t equate your success with feminism. I equate it to you realizing a calling and hopefully doing what the Lord has given you to do.

Katherine Coble July 9, 2013 at 2:29 PM

That is a very nice example of the No True Scotsman fallacy at work.

Feminists are telling you of the very Christian impetus behind their feminism and work and all you do is keep saying “that’s not feminism.”

I suppose as long as you keep holding to a definition of feminism that fits your preconception you’ll never change your mind. That’s why I’ve stopped trying. But just remember. No True Scotsman.

Nicole July 9, 2013 at 4:12 PM

Katherine, I’ve told you before the origin of feminism was not pretty. Now you can represent the latest greatest “Christian” feminism and make it all nice and saintly, but, truly, in its original state: it wasn’t nice, it wasn’t helpful to women, abused and otherwise, and it was represented by women who had no Christian preferences whatsoever. If what it has become for Christian women like yourself serves a better and truer purpose, then perhaps you could suggest to other Christian feminists to come across more like Jesus and less like who they are in the flesh – which I think (and I definitely could be wrong) was the point of Mike’s post.

Katherine Coble July 9, 2013 at 4:45 PM

The origins of Protestantism weren’t all that pretty. Does this render all Protestant sects throughout time invalid?

Nic July 15, 2013 at 12:39 PM

On the contrary, the origins of feminism were very much Christian, beginning in the nineteenth century revival movements. In addition, the movement for the abolition of slavery was in many locales led by women, many of whom used similar exegetical techniques to argue for the right of women to preach and lead churches, or to be ordained where ordination applied.

Even in the more secular sense, feminism’s a much older movement than you appear to be assuming, rooted in the women’s suffrage movement (which in itself, had a fair amount of Christian connections).

Nicole July 9, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Cote, you don’t know anything about me and my experiences with abuse, whether personal or via others. There’s no excuse for it. Zero. And why you or anyone else think “feminism” is the rescue or salvation of abuse victims, no, I don’t get that. Some violent offenders repeat what they experienced. Others are demonically inspired. People need courageous rescuers as you described, those willing to help and not ignore this violence. For you to insist that feminism is at the heart of it – to associate feminism with “true Christianity” – is to take a human term which was built on not a really great movement in its original group and give it more value than it deserves.

I admire and respect your profession, but I don’t equate your success with feminism. I equate it to you realizing a calling and hopefully doing what the Lord has given you to do.

R.J. Anderson July 8, 2013 at 10:36 AM

To comment on your first paragraph rather than the rest of the article — I think it’s entirely possible (and even Biblical) to hold a complimentary view of male and female roles in the Body of Christ without denying that women are entirely capable of doing all the things the NT asks men in the church to do.

After all, the Lord Jesus Christ, being God, was equal to the Father and entirely capable of doing all the same things as He did — yet He submitted Himself willingly to the Father as his Head. I believe that women in the church and in marriage are following the example of Christ in submitting to God’s order and authority, without that reflecting in any way whatsoever on their spiritual worth or capabilities compared to men. Just because you can do something, even do it as well or better than the people around you, is not proof that you ought to do it. The question of roles and ministry in the church is not decided by human wisdom or argument, but by God’s appointment.

Jill July 8, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Emily’s post is manipulative, and it is also pure rhetoric. That is, no doubt, why so many people had negative gut reactions to it. It’s quite simple to respond like for like: emotional rhetoric with more emotional rhetoric. Men will start filling the pews if women are proper servants?! Men will become great leaders if women are proper servants?! Those sentiments are more than just silly–they are wrong. A man doing what God has called him to do should not be dependent on what his wife does. This is a promise that Emily can in no way fulfill. Because of that, I can only view her words as manipulation.

Jill July 8, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Oh, and just to add one more thing: The title hints at the manipulation to come when she calls other women her sisters. That is a term of intimacy that is not warranted for a general, public audience. In addition, she can’t write a complete sentence to save her life, which signals, to me, that she is suffering from emotive outbursts and not logical ones.

Jessica Thomas July 8, 2013 at 11:30 AM

“…When we stop being afraid of what men can do to us, or angry about what they have done, and start serving the God whose image they are made in, then men will start filling our church pews again.

And our husbands will rise up to their full potential to be spiritual leaders, to be prophets and priests of integrity and Pentecost, to be speakers into lives and providers of families and protectors of daughters and mentors of sons.”

I haven’t read the article, but I agree, the above teaching is erroneous and potentially harmful for the reasons you state: “A man doing what God has called him to do should not be dependent on what his wife does. This is a promise that Emily can in no way fulfill.”

There’s no justification for the ladies to get snarky, rude, and personal about it, though.

Brianne July 8, 2013 at 5:55 PM

I agree, the whole notion that God prefers the traditional family and that will fill church pews is so odd to me considering God seems to very much utilize the single people without distractions in the Bible more easily. God definitely does not need women to start submitting just to get men back in pews. What if he is using his spirit to teach full equality to get people back in the pews? just another perspective, not saying it’s right or wrong.

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Just the fact that she kept using what I call “the dictatorial ‘we'” put me off. I hate it when people refuse to take ownership for the directness of their opinions by saying “we” when what they truly mean is “you people”.

If you are openly talking about a personal failing, say “I”. Don’t drag others into your misdeed to make it seem blunted.

If you are wanting to address someone else’s behaviour or attitude you better have a good reason–such as they are physically harming another person in their care. Otherwise just stick with Christ’s teachings and let God sort it out.

This “we are not being good Christians” or “we all have said racist remarks” or “we all lie from time to time” garbage is for the birds.

Johne Cook July 8, 2013 at 12:48 PM

Much of the disagreement seems to be in the way Emily wrote her post. I’m more interested in the content (which, from my perspective, seems innocuous enough). If you stop being fearful or angry at what your fallible husband is doing or has done and refocus your gaze on God, you can obey Him enough to serve him and reap the blessings that come with obedience to God.

We have a unique situation in our house – of the four people in my family, I am the one who does not have a dominant personality type, and yet I have responsibility as a spiritual leader. It’s an enigma, a challenge. I like it when Linda respects me and try very hard to love her in a way meaningful to her, but whether she submits or not doesn’t change my responsibility to serve her sacrificially as Christ served the church regardless of my phlegmatic tendencies. For me, it means a lot of setting aside what I would prefer or what I want to do. It means carving time out to listen without trying to repair, leading without demanding she follow. It’s tricky and I will not master it in this life. But every year, I get a little better and as we grow closer to God, we grow closer to each other. (fwiw, I do note that Linda started to submit after I stopped talking about Biblical submission. I get it.)

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 12:02 PM

If the relationship between husband and wife is constantly adversarial and full of power struggles, or belittling, the man is not going to have the energy over time to care about filling a pew or leading unless it’s to keep the peace. If he has to worry about whether doing a simple action for her (wanting her to cook with him, per the article) will offend her delicate egalitarian sensibilities, he’s going to emotionally zone out until the divorce. The wife has a LOT of power to influence her husband for good or evil, and I don’t think it’s that farfetched to assume that marital strife from lack of submission can be a reason why men aren’t motivated to be spiritual leaders.

Jessica Thomas July 8, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Both spouses potentially have a lot of power over their significant others. However, I doubt “I didn’t lead because she wouldn’t let me” will be a valid excuse before God on judgement day.

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 12:50 PM

You can’t lead someone who doesn’t want to be led. It only works if the woman opts in, otherwise you let her lead, or strife city.

Jill July 8, 2013 at 1:17 PM

D.M., are you married? In healthy relationships that I’ve been witness to (my parents, for example), the husband and wife more or less come to a consensus as to what areas each of them will take charge of. There will always be areas of disagreement and, in those areas, one or the other must compromise. I have learned from 20 yrs (come August 1) of marriage that leadership isn’t an all or nothing proposition. It’s generally divided between the two because, otherwise, one person never has a voice, and the other person has an undo amount of responsibility. I don’t know how other couples work it out; I only know successful couples will work it out for better or worse.

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 1:30 PM

I’m not married. I see a lot of married folks, and more often than not the men seemed to be dragged around by the women, who have veto power and who set the responsibilities. The men don’t lead so much as react, and the women tend to be the strong types who wind up doing everything because they want to anyways.

Usually the women will describe it as egalitarianism, but it’s a weird form of reverse complementarism where the women end up the defacto head of the family, while the men are along for the ride.

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 2:02 PM

I honestly don’t think you have an informed grasp of this dynamic.

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 2:26 PM

“Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

Jessica Thomas July 8, 2013 at 3:36 PM

I’m with Jill, it’s a give and take between both spouses. A smart married couple lets the other half lead according to who is strongest in any given situation. A mathematical woman does the bills. An artistic male makes the kids Halloween costumes. It takes time, sometimes a lot of time to work out that balance. Marriage is not one-size-fits-all.

Johne Cook July 8, 2013 at 12:29 PM

Whether men are motivated to be spiritual leaders or not is no excuse for disobedience or abdicating our that responsibility because of how much or how little our mates perform their responsibilities. The lack of men in the church in America may have something to do with what women do or don’t do but those men remain responsible (and I think culpable) for their absence. (I happen to attend a smallish community church where we have a strong male presence but I know the numbers and they are depressing.)

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 4:11 PM

Yeah this is true. Men in church is a lot more complex than the smaller element here, but if there’s a strong possibility you are going to be asked to be a spiritual leader to someone you can’t lead, maybe it’s not good to be married. I mean, it would just be one more thing you’d fail at just by entering.

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Jill, you said, “It’s quite simple to respond like for like.” Like for like? As I said in my post, “the tone of the comments hardly seemed commensurate to the tone of the article.” Unless you’re sure Emily was being rhetorical and manipulative. But even then, does that justify the charges that she was glorifying abuse, deceived by the devil, and insinuations that she’s in an abusive relationship? Frankly, when you say things like “she can’t write a complete sentence to save her life,” it kind of confirms the point I’m making. There’s a mean-spiritedness that doesn’t serve to further the discussion.

Jill July 8, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Using illogical sentence structures such as “But.” is an example of emotional rhetoric. She is using rhetoric, and she is being manipulative. You’re right; I shouldn’t have couched it in the terms I did. On the other hand, I have a gut-level distaste for that style of rhetoric, whether it’s in a work of fiction or in a nonfiction piece from a feminist perspective (I have been more vociferously opposed to feminist and/or leftist emotional manipulation, but you don’t post that here). This is not the first time I’ve dissed this style of “persuasive” writing, and it won’t be the last. I do not like manipulation. My dislike has nothing whatever to do with the way others responded to her. I can only say why I don’t like her article.

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Agreed. Again.

Mich Pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 10:50 AM

And yep, read her entire post and it makes my blood boil.

Thank you, Jill. My thoughts exactly!’

billgncs July 8, 2013 at 10:50 AM

it has always seemed to me that children pay the price of feminism.

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 11:54 AM

As a former girl child who was able to go to college, get a job and not have to vacuum in pearls and high heels I think I’ll have to resoundingly disagree with you.

Jill July 8, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Children pay the price for parental narcissism and irresponsibility, which are unhealthy personality traits rather than ideologies.

billgncs July 8, 2013 at 1:32 PM

there is a finite amount of hours, and emotional energy in a family. It’s just like cash, it gets spent where it is important.

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 1:39 PM

Well I’m awfully glad my parents thought it was important for me to eat well, get a good education, travel, and have top notch medical and dental care. My mother–my Christian Feminist mother–saw to that.

She also saw to the fact that I read the Bible cover to cover three times before graduation from High School, that I became conversant in theology, philosophy, exegesis, hermeneutics, comparative religion and baking.

Not sure what price I paid, but the outcome was a great value.

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Not all feminists did, though. Can’t we just admit feminism was a mixed blessing and leave it at that?

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 2:53 PM

As soon as we admit that all of humanity and life itself is a mixed blessing and stop putting things we don’t agree with in scare quotes.

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 3:00 PM


Sara July 8, 2013 at 7:10 PM

Absolutely, Katherine. Well said.

liz July 13, 2013 at 9:20 AM

I grew up in a comp home and was raped by my nice christian daddy. I kind of wish my mother was feminist enough to leave her marriage and take care of us on her own. But she was never prepared for that and her daughters paid the price.

Belle Vierge July 8, 2013 at 4:01 PM

Yes, my parents were absolutely horrible to encourage me to do well in school and to teach my brothers AND me how to cook/clean. Now I’m a horrible person since I advocate for survivors of sexual assault.

I don’t think you understand what feminism is.

Brianne July 8, 2013 at 6:06 PM

Having my mom spend her whole life raising me, which I’m definitely thankful for, and then hear little comments like “I still don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up/with my life” makes me sad, the faith I have has always led me to ardently believe that God desires to use women in whatever way he sees fit regardless of hierarchical models. You are getting bogged down in the who’s the boss idea, when my Christian feminism is that God is my boss and can use me however he wants, why is this perceived so negatively by fundamentalists?

Sara July 8, 2013 at 7:12 PM

Fundamentalists thrived on rigidity. If everything isn’t completely mapped out for them and if everybody doesn’t “know their place” (especially women) it scares them to death.

Sara July 8, 2013 at 7:13 PM

*thrive, not thrived

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 7:34 PM

I don’t think the argument is as much about God using you as the impact on the family. Many fundamentalists really don’t have as much an issue with women teachers or ministers, but feminist ideas are radically changing the family to an institution centered around the women, with optional men. It’s a radical change, and men don’t seem to adapt well to being optional at least in secular society.

Sara July 8, 2013 at 7:52 PM

Can you explain how feminism is changing the family to an institution that is centered around women with optional men? Because that’s not true at all. I think the thing that feminism is doing is broadening the definition of a family, so that all families don’t necessarily have to look like a stay-at-home mom with a bread-winner dad and their 2.5 children. But that’s hardly “an institution centered around women with optional men.”

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 8:56 PM

Well, women have more than enough autonomy to have and raise children on their own, or in short to long term monogamous unions. If a woman says “I don’t need a man if I want to have a child,” apart from the bio issues it’s really true; she faces moderate to no stigma if she chooses to bear one as a single woman out of wedlock. She can also divorce a man at will, and divorce is often seen as an empowering act. It’s hard to not see men as optional in that kind of system, and I think the societal trends show this. I think fundamentalists really worry that like the other secular societal ideas, this one will take root in churches too.

Sara July 8, 2013 at 9:07 PM

Well, divorce can be empowering for many women. Particularly women who are in abusive marriages. Because of divorce they no longer have to continue to stay with the person who is hurting them. I think that is very empowering.

And as far as a single woman choosing to have kids without a man, I’m sure that happens sometimes but I don’t think it’s as big of an epidemic as fundamentalists think. I can’t think of any women that I’ve ever known who wanted to have a kid all by themselves. Many of the women that I know who are raising kids by themselves are doing so because their husbands left them. I think they would all love to ideally be raising their kids with a partner.

Adding to that idea, even if a woman doesn’t “need” a man in a traditional sense, she will probably still want to have a relationship for companionship. I consider myself one of these women. I’m in a relationship with a man, not because I “need” him necessarily, but because I enjoy the pleasure of his company. And that’s good enough for the both of us. 🙂

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 10:11 PM

If you look at out of wedlock births, it’s something like 40% of all live births. I’m not sure of the breakdown based on cohabitating couples, but I don’t think it’s a non-trivial number. 2% of births are from IVF, for example. It’s more that it’s capable for a woman to fully take care of a child with little to no male involvement if she chooses.

The companionship model of love seems to have given us some pretty high divorce rates as well as very late average age of marrying. It seems to be a weak tie if that, and if you wanted to ditch your guy, what would you lose?

Sara July 8, 2013 at 10:19 PM

Okay, well, we’ll probably just have to agree disagree about this whole thing at this point because I honestly don’t care about divorce rates and late ages of marrying. I think people should get married if and when they want to and they should get divorced if they feel that it’s the right choice for them as well. I’m kind of over the conservative hand-wringing about the “destruction of the nuclear family” because the nuclear family literally means jack shit to me, pardon the French.

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 10:57 PM

I don’t think most Christians believe this, but if you do I don’t think there’s much point talking about it. I grew up in a divorce without a nuclear family, and if that’s the replacement, we’ve got one rough time ahead of us all.

Katherine Coble July 9, 2013 at 2:35 PM

All due respect but you had a nuclear family. It may not have been the stick family window cling heteronormative ideal, but you had people who loved you and cohabitated with you in a committed relationship.

That’s a family.

Feminists like me like to emphasise that a family doesn’t have to look like Mommy Daddy Sibling Sibling Pet in order to qualify as a family. Because everyone has a deep need for that familial connection and more and more people have to make their own whether it be through marriage or mutual affinity.

You had a nuclear family.

D.M. Dutcher July 9, 2013 at 4:23 PM

Look, no offense, but it’s not the same, and unless you’ve lived under divorce, especially if it happens to you at a young age, you can’t say much of anything about how it affects children.

Katherine Coble July 9, 2013 at 4:42 PM

Oh. Okay. I see.

You get to have opinions on marriage when you aren’t married, on womanhood when you’re not a woman, on homeschooling when you’re not a parent…but God forbid I get to have an opinion on children of divorce when I didn’t live through that situation.

I see how this works now.

D.M. Dutcher July 9, 2013 at 5:01 PM

I don’t mind you having the opinion, but you are talking about what kind of family I have had specifically, not in general. I don’t really speak specifically on how your family structure was, especially in a way where responding would involve divulging personal info.

Brianne July 9, 2013 at 7:24 AM

I can’t speak for all Christian Feminist, but I, and the ones I know, absolutely love men and have no desire for power over a family or any matriarchal society. I do not believe we can live without them, I have a husband I love to death and a brother that has always been a good mentor.

thatmom July 8, 2013 at 11:14 AM

Hi Mike.
I don’t label myself as anything in the gender battles and I do hope I am a gracious women! I wanted to respond to the notion that women are to remain with abusers.

I spent a good part of the past 4-day weekend reading A Cry for Justice by Jeff Crippen and I highly recommend it. A conservative pastor and former police officer, Jeff has done his research and written about the impact the teachings in the patriarchy movement have had on women in the area of abuse. I am blown away with his insights and highly recommend the book. I think it gives a unique perspective on the fruit of many of the teachings that some women are speaking out against.

Also, this morning I happened to check a friend’s blog and found this awesome mini-history of patriarchal teachings written by an attorney who has worked in the area of domestic violence and his conclusion? The patriarchal teachings in the church are contributing to domestic violence and are harming the cause of Christ. I hope you will look at his thoughtful writings. Both of these suggestions have thoughts by men and also are very well stated!

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Thanks for the links. I’ll check them out when I get a chance. I think Emily was clear that she doesn’t endorse abuse.

Christina July 8, 2013 at 1:39 PM

It isn’t enough to say that abuse is bad (i.e. to “not endorse” it). Almost everyone, if pressed, would agree that it’s awful and unhealthy and not God’s plan for marriage. The trouble is that Emily’s article (particularly the anecdote with her Lebanese friend) implied that, at least in some cases, women could cause their partners not to be abusive by being more submissive. She tried to backtrack and add qualifications as the day progressed, but the better move would have been to leave out the story of the Lebanese friend entirely. If you want an analogy as to why this can be harmful, imagine a Jehovah’s Witness writing a post about how they had faith and obeyed God and didn’t give their sick child a blood transfusion and the child survived, and then suggesting that the child survived *because* they were obedient and didn’t accept blood transfusions.

I agree that all of us should strive to be respectful when we dialogue with others, but tone can be notoriously tricky to interpret (especially in writing) and points don’t cease to be valid just because they’re not phrased quite as nicely as you want them to be. Also, our responses will never be devoid of emotion. Domestic abuse isn’t just an issue for me. It involves real women whom I care about deeply. When I read about or discuss DV, I see their faces, I hear their voices, and when I hear another Christian using rhetoric similar to that which was wielded against my friends at their most vulnerable, I do get angry. I try to be fair and constructive even in my anger, but my response will never be cold and dispassionate, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Thanks, Christina. That’s a very fair response.

The problem I have is how people seem to justify their tone b/c men have put them down or they’ve been abused or they perceive someone is sexist. Of course, the person who’s not suffered abuse will read such a post differently than me. Maybe that explains my approach to that whole exchange. Nevertheless, the attack tone does not seem to serve their cause. On Twitter right now, I’m being called all kinds of names. I’m assuming it’s justified — in the writer’s mind — b/c they’ve been abused or victimized. Nevertheless, it’s that kind of “spirit” that, to me, taints this whole discussion.

Anyway, thanks for commenting!

Christina July 8, 2013 at 3:04 PM

A few thoughts on the tone and spirit of the discussion: I confess that sometimes I do wonder if some of my fellow Christian feminists have phrased their criticisms as constructively as possible, but I try to extend grace to others who have been hurt. Ultimately, the only person whose tone I can control is me. I think when others are speaking from a place of hurt, it’s important to put aside our reaction to how I perceive their tone and listen to what they’re saying. If there is any bitterness and rancour that’s between them and God. I can’t fully know in what spirit they were writing. Their close friends may know them well enough to call them on it, but I don’t. And tone can be notoriously tricky to interpret in blog posts and comments. What I read as a bitter diatribe may in fact have gone through numerous edits, several read-throughs from friends, and anguished prayers before the writer pressed send. And finally, I do think that for some people who are calling out abuse and misogyny in the church, their role sometimes has a prophetic element to it. When you`re calling out hidden sin and abuse of power, being nice isn`t necessarily a top priority. Paul, the Old Testament prophets, and even Jesus used some pretty harsh language to call people out. Finally, there`s a gendered aspect to tone as well. Few people try to judge women differently than men, but sometimes internalized stereotypes can affect our perceptions of people`s words and actions without us even realizing it. Jen Thewett-Baites, for instance, found that when she used a male pseudonym in comments sections she was taken much more seriously than when she used her real name she was dismissed. That can take a toll on women after awhile. It`s easy to get frustrated when your every word is scrutinized and dismissed not because of the points you make, but on the much more ambiguous grounds of how you make them. Does that make sense?

Sara July 8, 2013 at 7:17 PM

It makes perfect sense, Christina. Thanks for saying it.

Elisabeth M July 16, 2013 at 5:43 PM

Something that no one has addressed in this whole conversation – either on this comment thread, or on Emily’s – is that “and then he became a Christian” isn’t the end of the story. Abusers can easily become Christians without ceasing to be abusers. That scenario is much, much more common than the scenario wherein an abuser (Christian or non) actually stops abusing. According to Lundy Bancroft – an expert on domestic abuse, who runs a rehabilitative program for abusive husbands – real change is so rare, it seriously almost never happens. The odds are overwhelmingly against it. I would be extremely surprised – as in, my mind would be blown – if I were to find out, first-hand, that the abusive husband in this story actually stopped abusing his wife after he converted. Most abuse happens in private anyway.

Jessica Thomas July 8, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Neither word appears in the Bible (complementarianism or egalitarianism). None of us are required to choose a side. (I find the discussion tiring, personally.) But, if we do, we should base our decision on which side is more Biblical, not based on which side is less snarky. However, it’s valid to judge based on fruit, and if the “egals” produce rotten fruit (and/or the “compies”) then it becomes a more legitimate write off.

Johne Cook July 8, 2013 at 11:57 AM

She struck me as the other side of the coin from somebody like a Rachel Held Evans, (no stranger to rhetoric herself), but, wow, why a call to Biblical servanthood would evoke such passionate vitriol is beyond me.

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Probably because that specific term (Biblical Servanhood) has been exploited and misused by the Quiverfull movement to condone abusive situations.

Lewis July 8, 2013 at 12:42 PM


Mich Pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Because many time, those who have been abused know that other responses don’t work. It’s a survival skill, a coping mechanism.

And Mike, it does explain why people ask if she’s being abused. People who have suffered abuse recognize the signs.

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Michelle, even in the responses here I feel there’s a need to just step back. Defenders of feminism seem to hedge at even CONCEDING their tone MIGHT be shrill. Instead, they often respond by trying justify it. I understand that people who have suffered abuse will react, perhaps over-react, in ways others don’t. I just have a hard time using that to condone the charges made there, that she was “glorifying abuse.” Doesn’t that seem a tad… over-the-top? I mean, is there ever a time for survivors of abuse to check themselves?

Mich Pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Why do you think she wasn’t glorifying abuse?

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Also, the fact that you might believe it’s the fault of abusers is akin to saying a woman who dresses in a certain way deserved to be raped. Because I know you, I know that’s not the leap you are making. I’m saying it to point out the fact that a rape culture exists and in “the church” it is more rampant and harder to get out of because the women are even more brainwashed than the men.

There’s a constant barrage of Christian women teaching their children that men do not have to own up to their actions and beliefs. That if the woman does this or that, it changes everything and then the man is safe and the man God is calling him to be.

That is what makes feminists blow a gasket. Myself included. So when the answer are harsh it is because we keep saying the same thing over and over and over and people like this woman throw more rhetoric out and use guilt to try to make other women deceived into believing this is God. It is NOT God.

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Michelle, really? For one, she clearly said she wasn’t. Secondly, it didn’t read that way at all to me.

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 1:11 PM

Yes, Mike. Really.

And I’m not trying to be factious. I’m saying this as a woman who has been suffering spiritual abuse since, well, since as long as I can remember. And while you may have had great experiences in your walk, I have had so few good experiences that I treasure those good ones with all of my soul and I try to allow those few experiences to push me beyond the trigger response, but the truth is, I have been abused more than I have been loved and cared for.

So when women are in huge public forums suggesting that submission equals happy marriage, or submission equals right and like-minded body of Christ followers, my soul screams to tell the truth.

In my first marriage, no amount of submission helped. And when he left me, my pastor at the time told me I could never remarry because I’d be committing adultery and God doesn’t hear the prayers of an adulteress. (among other things) I was nineteen and a half.

In more recent times, another pastor accused me of being a heretic because I had a dream about Jesus. I was put under “church discipline” and told I could not serve and I was a woman and a woman’s place was with an elder baking cinnamon rolls, not writing in my journal or any kind of writing for that matter. (2006)

Those are two very small examples. Both of these churches taught and talked the way this woman did in her post.

That condones the abuse cycle to continue with permission from the women who buy into the sickness of it.

Sara July 8, 2013 at 7:21 PM

So sorry you had to go through all that, Michelle. But thank you for sharing your experience. It’s important to get this stuff out in the open.

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 8:43 PM

Thank you, Sara. I appreciate your kindness.

Fortuna Veritas July 8, 2013 at 1:33 PM

Of course no one is going to openly advocate abuse by using language that’s honest about it. They’ve got to dress it up pretty so it’s attractive to their audience after all, or at least has a chance of being attractive.

Kat Heckenbach July 8, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Mike, she is. She used her Lebanon friend as an example of the amazing things that can be accomplished if you just lower yourself even further in an abusive relationship. She came back and said that’s not what she meant. Sorry–I call bullshit. She put it out there, exactly that way. She can’t back-peddle. Why did she not use an example in a marriage where the woman was NOT being abused? As if there aren’t enough out there to choose from. No, instead she said, “I know….” about the women suffering abuse, but here is my example, deal with it, it’s your place.

Lewis July 8, 2013 at 12:58 PM

I can easily see where Emily’s article would be triggering for survivors of abuse, domestic and spiritual, or for people recovering from religious addiction.

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Yes. I should use the word trigger more often, because it is a trigger. A huge trigger.

Erin July 8, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Mike, I stumbled on this post and know little about you. You are a self-proscribed novelist, blogger, culture watcher, and Christ follower. I think before discussing abuse and what people who were abused “should” or “shouldn’t” do you might want to add “therapist” or “psychological hobbyist” to your repertoire. I know this is going to sound strange, but the woman who expressed concern for Emily having been abused was nothing more than concerned. That is an expression of love, very Christ like. Defending those who have been abused is also an expression of love, also very Christ like. Christ and the Father always defended those who could not defend themselves and spoke for them through the prophets. Telling those who have been abused that their experience is in any way invalid is not love. Telling those in pain to be quiet is not love. Love is giving them a voice, accepting them, and opening dialogue. You can only control yourself, Mike. You may be wasting your time on a “shouldy” world when Christ has called us to something much much more.

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 1:19 PM

Yes, Erin!

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 5:12 PM

Erin, I don’t doubt that “the woman who expressed concern for Emily having been abused was nothing more than concerned.” Also agree that, “Telling those who have been abused that their experience is in any way invalid is not love.” Just not sure how either of these things actually addresses my point.

Jill July 8, 2013 at 1:30 PM

Mike, she says, “I know about my friend in Lebanon whose husband broke her teeth when she became a Christian. (And how she stayed with him, anyway, and how he became a Christian because of the way she continued to serve him.)” This is the basic idea of her post. If women are submissive servants, men will become godly. If she says she doesn’t advocate abuse, she’s using double-speak.

Belle Vierge July 8, 2013 at 4:11 PM

If you have suffered from abuse, or sexual assault, then you are in a unique position to understand statements/comments that imply support of abuse/assault. I am extremely defensive when people write about “modesty,” especially in regards to women covering their curves. Why? Because I was sexually harassed for years, mostly by my twin brother, after hitting puberty at a late age. Not only did no one stand up for me or tell him to stop, but “good Christian women” thought it was necessary to pull me aside and talk to me about my clothes, so that I didn’t cause men to “stumble” in their walks. The rhetoric I heard in church, and from Christians, coupled with my sexual harassment, led to me blaming myself when I was sexually assaulted. So, yeah, I have a better understanding than someone who has NOT been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted of what “innocent” statements are actually harmful and dangerous. And for you to dismiss the commentary of people who have actually been abused, when you have NOT, over their “tone,” just indicates how incredibly privileged and blind to your privilege you are.

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 5:16 PM

Belle said, “If you have suffered from abuse, or sexual assault, then you are in a unique position to understand statements/comments that imply support of abuse/assault.”

So are you saying that b/c I have not suffered from abuse or sexual assault, I am not entitled to have opinions about how some feminists come off? I don’t doubt at all that you “have a better understanding than someone who has NOT been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted of what ‘innocent’ statements are actually harmful and dangerous.” But is that a license for accusing someone of condoning abuse, being deceived by the devil, and inferring they are, in fact, being abused?

Belle Vierge July 9, 2013 at 8:09 AM

I did not say you are not entitled to have an opinion about how some feminists come off. Do not put words into my mouth.

I replied to your specific comment, not your overall post. In that comment, you said that survivors of abuse overreact and need to check themselves. That is offensive, ESPECIALLY coming from someone who admits he is not a survivor of abuse.

This has been said by others, more eloquently, who are more involved in the original post, but it bears repeating. If a person shares a story of a woman who was in an abusive relationship with a man, and then further explains that the woman became more and more submissive until the man became a Christian: sharing that story is indirectly condoning abuse. The implication of that story is that abused women are just not submissive enough, and their abuse is their fault.

Again, if you have not been abused, then you are less likely to understand how that condones abuse. If you have been abused, then you are more likely to understand how that condones abuse because those exact words have been told to you, over and over and over again.

Randy Streu July 8, 2013 at 5:23 PM

I think the word “infer” is being confused with “imply.” The author did not imply support of abuse or assault. You inferred it. Those are two very different things.

Randy Streu July 8, 2013 at 5:29 PM

Gah. Hit submit too soon.

Your experiences don’t inform the meanings others have in their words; they can only inform your interpretation of those words. In that sense, we are on equal ground when it comes to interpreting the words spoken by somebody else.

I’m reminded of a city council meeting in which a man (who may or may not have been victimized at some point by racial discrimination — I simply don’t know) was offended by the term “black hole.” His cultural experience was such that he was hardwired to view racial codewords in even completely innocuous and unrelated vernacular.

Granted, I’ve not been the victim of racial discrimination for being black, but I still feel fairly qualified — as someone who is familiar with words, where they come from, and how they work — to say the problem with the terminology was exclusively his own, and not a cultural insensitivity to the plight of those victimized by discrimination. His own experiences did not give him any special insight to anything other than how certain words affected him. “Black Hole” doesn’t IMPLY negative connotations regarding African heritage; he inferred it.

Same applies here.

James July 8, 2013 at 8:59 PM

Shrill? Would you use the word “Shrill” to describe a man’s tone? There’s so much innate dismissal of women in Christianity, it happens when you don’t even mean it to happen.

Elisabeth M July 16, 2013 at 5:51 PM

Wow. “Shrill” is a loaded word. It’s a term that has a long misogynist history. I wish you hadn’t used it.

That said, I do concede that tone matters, and as I’ve read down this thread, I’ve seen other women conceding that the way a comment or blog post is phrased isn’t always perfect, that it can be bitter, that it can contain rancour. I don’t hear anyone denying that. In some cases, I do hear people agreeing that certain words could have been better-chosen.

I am personally someone who is hyper-aware of how things are heard by others, whether I’m the one speaking or it’s someone else. So, I have deep convictions about considering one’s audience.

What I think you’re not getting, though, is the other side of the coin.

Lewis July 8, 2013 at 12:42 PM


Lewis July 8, 2013 at 12:43 PM

My reply was to Michelle, btw.

Christina July 8, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Because it was aimed at a specific subgroup of people, when it’s something that’s good for everyone. Of course I’m called to serve my husband. My husband is called to serve me. If only one of us is fulfilling our responsibility in this regard, it gets messy really fast.

Brianne July 8, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Probably because a servant’s heart can also be fostered in realizing for the first time as a women that God can use you to serve in whatever what he sees fit or gifts you, regardless of cultural fundamentalist calling “in the name of God” all women to submissiveness and motherhood. Just a thought, do you really think God values the servant heart of the submissive wife over the servant heart of a woman that doesn’t get married and spends her whole life dedicated to ministry? probably equally, but I just feel like the husband has abused the power and we’re all just better off saying we serve God.

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 12:34 PM

I don’t think they can hurt their cause. Pretty much the social, moral, and legal climate favors egalitarianism. and most of us Christians who hold to complementarianism mostly see it as something women opt-in to because it makes for more harmonious marriages and a better life. Or something that can fix male disengagement with life, marriage, and society. Any form of complementarianism with teeth rightly horrifies 95% of us, no matter how conservative we are. The woman chooses to submit, so egalitarianism is the default. It’s not a bad thing.

It’s just, well, a power shift from men to women. It will take some getting used to, and I don’t know if we ever will.

Johne Cook July 8, 2013 at 12:34 PM

Setting the term aside (which I wasn’t addressing), the concept remains valid as far as I can see. Christ demonstrated selfless servanthood in a way that both men and women should aspire to emulate.

Jill July 8, 2013 at 12:47 PM

I agree with this. This is biblical. We are all to be bond servants.

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 1:15 PM

I agree entirely. I’m in a complementarian marriage and happy to be in Servanthood to the ideals and teachings of Christ Jesus.

I was just trying to explain why some quarters are having an abreaction to what seems to many an innocuous term.

And yes, I am a Christian Feminist. But I prefer being called that without the dismissive scare quotes.

Christina July 8, 2013 at 1:45 PM

I’ll agree with that. I would 100% support an article that called all believers to emulate Christ’s servanthood. What rankled was the fact that it was addressed specifically at feminists, as though servanthood is something only feminists (or especially feminists) need to learn. It’s like when my great-aunt lectures me on exercise be telling me “exercise is good for people like you.” People like me? I thought it was good for, you know, everyone.

Tim George July 8, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Servanthood tends to get this kind of knee-jerk response all the way around. Suggest Biblical eldership or church discipline and watch people run for a clip of some pastor on YouTube acting like a jerk to defend their desire for a democratic free for all in the church. Tell a young man the reason he should work a full 40 hours if he gets paid for 40 hours and watch him defend slacking off because he deserves more. Or rise in a restaurant to open a door for a woman with her arms loaded down and watch her inform you she doesn’t need any man’s help.

Servant is not a welcome term these days be it male or female.

Fortuna Veritas July 8, 2013 at 1:30 PM

You abuse a term too much and people aren’t going to want anything to do with it, yes.

Mich Pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Servants pod to Christ is one thing, servant hood with an agenda is not servanthood.

Mich Pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 12:41 PM

*Servanthood. I need to get off my phone so I can type real responses. Sigh.

Johne Cook July 8, 2013 at 12:56 PM

As a thought experiment, I wanted to see what ‘servanthood with an agenda’ would look like. On the surface, I feel like thinking that ‘serving is serving,’ but SyFy (of all places, oy) to the rescue. In a four minute clip from the end of Season One, Stahma Tarr (the white-haired, white-skinned alien woman whose name I had to look up) seems to me to be an example of ‘servanthood with an agenda.’ On the surface, she seems to be the introverted, submissive wife to her extroverted, driven husband, but even on cursory viewing, she’s written as if she is the one who really leads that family, and she seems to use sex to do it.

To your point, manipulating via service isn’t true servanthood. There is a brokenness, a bending of the knee of your will in true servanthood, putting others before because of Christ’s example.

This is a long way of me saying I agree with you in this regard, Michelle. 😉

Tim George July 8, 2013 at 1:04 PM

There is a Defiance watcher among us. Stahma Tarr is great example of a woman who serves no one but herself. Even in her lesbian affair supposedly in reaction to her abusive husband she is abusive to her female cohort.

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Thank you for going out of your way to try to see my point, Johne. I appreciate that.

And I truly serve Christ and my husband and my friends. I have been with Phil for 20 years now and I’ve never met another couple as happy and content and in love as we are after this long. I lose friends constantly over our relationship. In fact, the abusive church and pastor I mentioned above in response to Mike actually came to Phil and told him to quit telling people that he did the dishes and helped with laundry because it was making the other men look bad and the women were starting to dissent and ask why their husbands weren’t like Phil.

I had two young girls about to be married to two deacon’s sons ask me to teach them how to have a good marriage. The pastor squashed that and said I was not a Biblical wife. The witch hunt then started. The leadership team and their wives were called and asked to list EVERY single thing they could think of for the entire 3 years I’d been there that could be considered un-Biblical and they had a meeting to throw their stones. It was wonderful, let me tell you.

And those experiences are the kinds that women all over the country are having but they’re being held under the thumb of these ideas that this woman brought to light in her article.

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 1:33 PM


You have been horribly abused by men who misuse their power in order to fulfill the holes in their egos.

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 1:46 PM

Yes. Yes I have.

I knew it as a young child in the Catholic church, I knew it as an atheist, I knew it as a new born-again believer at 19 when I was told I couldn’t marry again. I left that church and its lies and God showed me who He really is. Then, I was actually caught off guard at the 2006 church incidents because I was so entrenched in the legalism-disguised-as-obedience teachings, that the rug was pulled out from under me. But I knew it was wrong, and left again.

I finally found a pastor who taught love and grace and mercy along with obedience and repentance, but he decided to take a job with the state and guess who the congregation chose as their new senior pastor? The 2006 pastor. 6 years later, 45 minutes and another time zone away from the first church we met at, he was brought back. I told the leadership team my story and they chose to not enter into conversation with him about it. So I left again.

God has me on a strange journey, but I trust Him and have learned that man’s ways are not His ways. 🙂

Kat Heckenbach July 8, 2013 at 1:07 PM

Um, OK. I read your post, and the comments here, and felt rather confused, so I went and read the original article.

So,this woman snaps at her husband—who is helping her cook, who is helping her with the kids, who cuts strawberries for her and makes sure she has uninterrupted time to write–because he asks her to cut onions. It sounds like she was being bitchy and felt bad about it. If anything, she was expecting her husband to be her servant. And apparently her mom was the same way–and she blames her attitude on that (and her dad being a parental wuss). If anything, her personal situation was the *exact opposite* of a woman with an abusive husband. If anything, it is the story of a woman who needed to get off her high horse and respect her husband who seems to be exactly the kind of husband Jesus said he should be. And her servanthood didn’t change him–it didn’t freaking need to. SHE needed the change.

THAT, however, is NOT anywhere near the advice that should be given to a woman who is being abused. Keep serving, keep letting him knock your teeth out? WHAT?? Sorry, the chick is whacked.

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 1:28 PM

I get that.

But the trigger is the language she used–which is the same language abusive churches use.

I agree she was being whiny. But then pleading to women to submit was NOT the article she should’ve been writing.

Kat Heckenbach July 8, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Michelle, could you explain what you mean about the language? I’m not making the connection. I don’t understand how what she’s writing indicates her being abused in some way. Is the implication she’s being abused by her husband, or by her church?

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Starting with the title. She calls servanthood an art, then she addresses it to her feminist sisters, accusing her feminist sisters of being less than on her scale of Godliness.

Then, the first thing she does is link to this: “As a woman living in the 21st century I will not be defined by my relationship with men, but rather, by my relationship with ONE man, Jesus Christ, and because of him, I will not be afraid of a relationship ‘status’ because there is no such thing. Rather, there is relationship, pure and simple. And I will embrace mine with my husband fully, because it does not define me… Jesus defines me. My husband is my companion, not my competitor. His love is a gift, not a threat, and his role is defined by God alone, not by theology or doctrine or Homer Simpson.”

But then in the next sentences, tries to convince the reader how by being a servant to her husband, it defines their relationship, it defines him, and defines our place with Christ.

Passive-aggressive rhetoric at it’s finest.

She tries to identify with the feminist believing that being a feminist means wanting to rule men. The feminist that I am wants men to be responsible for their actions and thoughts and beliefs and wants women to stop acting as if something they do or say will lead the men to their calling and fulfillment in God.

So again, she’s being passive-aggressive.

Then, she tries to justify it all by using Hebrew, “When God says, “Let us make mankind in our own image; male and female He created them,” there are two different Hebrew words used to denote gender. “Zakar” is used for male and “Nequebah” for female.
Zakar means a call to remembrance or to worship, the Lord God who saved him.
Nequebah, the Hebrew word for female, literally means punctured, bored through.”

Hebrew words used pictures. So punctured, bored through seems to me to mean we have vaginas. Not what the author she then quoted manufactured from the meaning.

So in that, men are called to worship and women have vaginas. Great way to let women know they’re not called to worship.

Then we move directly into the Lebanese woman getting her teeth knocked out, but staying, and she moves into the passive-aggressive cycle by saying that her husband cuts her strawberries, etc…

Then she starts confusing the definition of love, “Yet when men treat women wrongly, when they forget or ignore what Jesus has done for them and take advantage of their leadership instead of using it to serve, then it is LOVE to set boundaries and to protect those women for God came to set the captives free. Spiritual submission goes hand in hand with spiritual responsibility.”

And continually uses “us” as if she’s a feminist.

Then we get (again) more rhetoric about her mom being demanding, but then getting sick and “needing” the husband she’d been abusing. As if brain cancer was the punishment for her supposed disobedience to Christ’s order to submit to her husband. And suddenly they loved each other and her dad was somehow the spiritual leader, handsome, and now a proud man, and his children “rose up” and “called her blessed” because he wiped his wife’s ass.

Then she ends with, “When we stop being afraid of what men can do to us, or angry about what they have done, and start serving the God whose image they are made in, then men will start filling our church pews again.

And our husbands will rise up to their full potential to be spiritual leaders, to be prophets and priests of integrity and Pentecost, to be speakers into lives and providers of families and protectors of daughters and mentors of sons.”

It’s full of passive-aggressive, guilt-inducing babble.

Kat Heckenbach July 8, 2013 at 3:41 PM

OK–maybe I misunderstood and thought you and I weren’t on the same page here. I think we ARE. I find her manipulative and passive-aggressive, too. I misread your original comment as you thinking *she* is the victim of abuse.

BTW, I went back and read her bio, and looked up the one book she wrote and read the first chapters on Amazon. She’s got a history of anorexia, which she says was her way of getting her parents’ love (they’ll love me more if I’m skinny). I think this woman has serious self-esteem issues, and serious control issues. And I can speak on that–I battled an eating disorder and I know dang well I’m a control freak. Anyway, again I say, there is a huge difference between learning to not be a jerk to your loving husband and sticking it out in an abusive relationship, and despite her insistence she’s not equating the two, she so is.

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 4:14 PM

You covered that all very nicely.

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Kat said, “Sorry, the chick is whacked.”

Forgive, but I’m having a hard time seeing how you can can just dismiss this whole post as ” the chick is whacked.” There’s nothing else there? I dunno.

Kat Heckenbach July 8, 2013 at 8:33 PM

She is whacked in the sense that she is equating ‘not being a bitch’ with ‘taking abuse’. And read what I said to Michelle–I looked up her bio and read part of her book. Does that give me the right to psychoanalyze her? Probably not. But I saw a lot of, “It’s my parents’ fault,” in her post and her book excerpt. A lot of, “My daddy didn’t love me, was too busy for me, and my mum was a tyrant,” kind of stuff.

My point is, she’s NOT giving a sound support for being a “submissive wife.” It’s all very manipulative and “this is how you make people love you.”

And, AGAIN–there are thousands of examples out there that show how a loving wife can set an example for her husband and she chooses a woman getting her teeth knocked out? I get that it was Lebanon, but *here in the USA* when a guy hits you like that, you *call 911*. She’s setting an impossible example, and one that she has no experience with.

Yes, she’s whacked. And yes, I can see why people are attacking her post.

That said, yes, some feminists take things to the extreme. Totally, absolutely. But this woman is an extremist on the other side. I know you don’t see that, but she is. And when one extremist comes out and makes statements like this woman does, then the extremists on the other side come out swinging too.

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 8:39 PM

So you think the responses — the charge that she was “glorifying abuse,” that only an ““unempathetic psychopath” would not be mad, the insinuation that she was deceived and being abused herself — were justified?

michelle pendergrass July 8, 2013 at 8:48 PM

I do, indeed. And have given ample reasons why.

Kat Heckenbach July 8, 2013 at 9:12 PM

I would definitely say she was *justifying* abuse. And in a way, glorifying it, yes. She uses an example of a woman getting her teeth knocked out by her husband as sort of the pinnacle of female/wifely submission. Look at the amazing work Jesus did through this woman! You could bring your husband to salvation, too, if only you’d suffer through it like she did! And God will be so happy with you for it! The message she is sending is that to be true Christians, women should tolerate ANYTHING their husbands do to them.

I get what you think the post means. That women who put themselves before their husbands as a result of their feminism lose the “art of servanthood.” But she’s showing a messed up idea of what servanthood is. It’s NOT being a doormat. It’s NOT letting a guy knock your teeth out. It’s being there to support him, to see when he’s had a bad day and rub his shoulders. It’s doing nice things for him, loving him, respecting him, in the same ways you would like to be loved and respected. Submission isn’t letting a guy walk all over you. It’s trusting a Christ-following husband to lead his family in the right direction.

I don’t know how to express *exactly* what is wrong with this post beyond the abuse example, but there is just something that doesn’t sit well with me. Something about her tone…OK, I reread it. She makes it sound like the only way a man can be strong is if a woman is weak. If women are helpless, like her mom when she had cancer, then men will finally step up and do their manly jobs. As though we need to be useless in order for men to be useful.

Kat Heckenbach July 9, 2013 at 7:25 AM

OK, a good night’s sleep later….

I should not have used the word “whacked.” That makes me come across as a name-caller. I didn’t mean it that way. Knee-jerk reaction to an article that angered me. For that I apologize. But I still feel the article was manipulative and harmful and abuse-justifying.

Mike, men don’t see this side of women as much as other women see it. The passive-aggressive way some women have of dealing with each other. You’ve got a lot of exceptions to that here. Women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds in this thread. Women who likely deal with men in the way men deal with each other, and who tire of women being passive-aggressive. Most of us know p/a women and it drives us nuts. We see them, as Katherine has pointed out, as manipulative. They try to present themselves as Marys, but are actually Marthas underneath. They’re trying to set themselves up as martyrs. See how much I do for everyone! See what a perfect wife I am! It’s not true servanthood. It’s not true humility. It’s trying to gain personal glory by having perfectly folded sheets and a well-fed husband. I am NOT saying that there are not wives out there with true servant’s hearts. There ARE. I know women like that. I can name so many. So many. But I would tell you this–NOT ONE of them would EVER say a woman should stay with an abuser as Emily did.

Maybe Emily wasn’t *trying* to be that way. But it’s the way she came across. The things I saw on her site, in her book, tell me she’s someone who is used to being in control. So she’s trying to say that women should not be the ones leading the family, forcing the men into a weak position. Is she wrong on that? *Not at all.*But THAT is so far removed from a woman dealing with a demanding and overbearing husband, much less a physically abusive one. She mixed two very, very different situations to make a point–that was a mistake.

And she seems to be sending the message that men are spineless unless we make them grow a backbone. Because her dad couldn’t or wouldn’t step up and be the husband and father he should have been until her mom got sick and suddenly “needed” him. Again, the opposite of what she did–stepping back to allow her already strong husband lead in the Christlike way he was already trying to do (according to the way she presented him in the article). Twice she uses examples that have nothing to do with the decision she personally made.

And she uses her grandmother as another example. But I read into the comments today. The grandmother killed herself AFTER her marriage ended when Emily’s parents told her they were putting her in a nursing home. That’s not an issue of wifely submission, and Emily is making huge assumptions by saying her grandmother killer herself as though it were some kind of childish temper tantrum. I don’t think anyone can really ever know all the reasons behind someone taking their own life and we should not profess to know.

It all adds up to her presenting the idea that the *only* way a marriage can function properly is if the wife does X, because then the husband will do Y, which sends the underlying message that the woman is really the one “in control” of the relationship. By feigning that she’s giving up control, she puts herself in a position of even greater control. But it’s a sneaky kind of control.

Anyway, this is getting rambly. But Emily used very specific examples in this article that send the message that women should be weak, or at least appear so, in order to make their husbands be the men they should be.

And I guess my real point is this–Mike, you asked how I could “dismiss the whole post” and isn’t there more? Well, yes, I think there is ALWAYS more, which is why this article should not be taken at face value. Emily *says* she’s not condoning abuse, but when you read more, when you dig farther, when you look at the way she’s picked and chosen scripture, things get very complicated. There seems to be a long history of seriously dysfunctional family issues in her life, and simplifying it to “submit to your husband and all will be fixed” doesn’t cut it.

Kat Heckenbach July 9, 2013 at 7:30 AM

And I have to say, the irony hit me this morning that every time I leave a comment here I have to click “submit.”

Funny, “submit” in that instance means to present what I have to offer, not let someone rule over me.

Mich Pendergrass July 9, 2013 at 7:49 AM

Ironic, indeed. And I agree with everything you’ve said this morning.

Kat Heckenbach July 9, 2013 at 7:54 AM

Thanks, Michelle. I was afraid I wasn’t making a lot of sense :).

Katherine Coble July 9, 2013 at 8:03 AM

It all made perfect sense.

Katherine Coble July 9, 2013 at 7:49 AM

Funny, but that’s how I see wifely submission, too. After all, if the husband to whom we submit loves us as Christ loves the Church…Christ wants the Church to present what she has to offer, right?

In our case one of the ways I submit–and pardon me for talking about an intimate relationship in an open forum but I’m doing so to elucidate my view on what has become a frought topic–is to use my particular writing skills as part of the way we as a couple actively minister to the community. On my own I wouldn’t necessarily use my skills (what I have to offer) in that way. But in the context of our relationship it has become part of our mutual ministry and service to Kingdom.

That’s what submission looks like in our house.

Our recent conversation on this:

Tim: I would NEVER order you to obey me.

Me: But if you did I would.

Tim: Which is why I wouldn’t.

Me: Which is why I signed on for this.

It sounds complicated. It really isn’t. We both think the world of the other person, put their needs before our own. Oddly enough, we both find our needs met that way and our bond stronger as well.

Kat Heckenbach July 9, 2013 at 8:16 AM

Katherine, I agree that submitting in marriage means presenting what you have to offer as well. Being who you are, using the talents and gifts God has given you.

For me, it’s things like doing work around the house rather than letting/making Jeff spend money on those things (making curtains/cornices, painting walls, that sort of thing). It means homeschooling my kids to the best of my ability (as opposed to letting Jeff dictate how I’m to homeschool them, although I need to remain open to his suggestions). It also means supporting him in his career decisions, and warning him if I think he’s stepping into a bad decision. It doesn’t mean keeping my opinions to myself, but rather using my brain and logic in a way that benefits our family and marriage.

Emily’s warnings against selfishness are valid, but that doesn’t mean in any way, shape or form that you should turn yourself into a whipping post. You need to be strong–and offer that strength to your husband and family, and accept his strength and support when he offers it to you.

And I do use my writing skills to better my marriage :). It’s actually, I think, what gave me the guts to try writing as a career. I found myself better able to communicate with Jeff by written word. If we’d had a disagreement or I felt he wasn’t understanding something I was going through, I would write out my feelings for him to read. I knew I could convey my thoughts more logically and cohesively that way, and there was no chance of me getting angry because he interrupted my chain of thought. I realized that if my natural tendency for self-expression is the written word, maybe I ought to try it outside that :). And he has been truly supportive, offering me what he has in order for me to do so. Which in turn makes me want to do more for him.

Donna Pyle July 8, 2013 at 1:07 PM

Mike, thanks for your thoughtful post on a touchy topic (as evidenced in the strong comments here and in the post you mentioned). As a woman and a Bible teacher, my goal is to point people to Christ — period — regardless of any movement or “ism.” History has proven that there will always be men who believe women teaching the Word is somehow “less than” or inadequate/inappropriare. When I write and teach, I don’t use write with a pink pen or study/prepare from a pink Bible, it’s one Word for all.

On Saturday, an event organizer (who already has me booked to speak at an upcoming Saturday evening banquet) called to ask if I’d be willing to stay over and teach the event’s Sunday morning Bible class since their scheduled male teacher can’t make it. He told me that since there would be men in the audience that they wouldn’t call it a Bible class, but rather a devotion or a walk through the Word. Yes, I had to swallow some anger and a snippy retort. But the bottom line? Whatever they call it won’t change the content, and those people, both men and women, will (God willing) leave class having heard the Gospel in a solid Bible class. My job is to teach where God opens doors, not engage in debate that takes focus off of the message of Christ. My two cents, my Friend. Blessings.

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 1:27 PM

This is my main issue with the false dichotomy advanced in this debate.

9/10 of the time when women start in with the sales pitch for submission in marriage what they REALLY mean is “act like you submit but use that false piety to manipulate your husband into doing what you want.”

I hear them joke about it constantly at women’s Bible studies, retreats and those grating Christian Comedienne shows. I hear them repeat that line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding constantly. “The man is the head but the woman is the neck
And the neck can move the head any way she wants.”

They HATE men. Or seem to. They resent men. Or seem to.

I have no patience for that kind of talk or action because it twists the Gospel and perverts Christ’s teaching.

I am in a truly submissive marriage. I’m not abused nor am I manipulating my husband with a false attitude of whitewashed sepulcher “submission”.

Fortuna Veritas July 8, 2013 at 1:28 PM

How would one even know, if one were brought up to believe that abuse was love as some “complementarians” do?

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 2:00 PM

The only thing I can figure is to speak (as I do) to the difference between Christ-modeled submission and the twisted Quiverfull misuse of the term.

I speak to it, write to it and strive to model it.

I also pray. Beyond that I feel powerless against the abuse of the Quiverfull /patriarchal redefiners of scriptural teaching.

1. Women are called to submit TO THEIR HUSBANDS. Not to every man. Submission is a marital intimacy on a par with sex.

2. Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Think about how Christ loves the church.
–Does your husband want you to grow, to be attractive to others, to be happy and be involved in spreading the Gospel as salt and light? Will your husband put your needs and comfort above his own needs and comfort? If this isn’t the case he’s not living up to his calling. Asking you to be dowdy and frumpy so others don’t find you attractive, telling you that he expects X to be done (ie. dinner better be on the table when I get home), refusing to allow you to use birth control; these are not Biblical models of husbandry. They are cultural misuses of the term exploited by insecure men.

Randy Streu July 8, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Absolutely agree with you here, Katherine, on all counts. I don’t, however, find the truths in this post to be exclusive from the truths in the post in question.

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 2:11 PM

Uh, attractive might be the wrong word. I don’t think a man should be controlling, and modesty doesn’t mean wearing burlap sacks, but the phrase “attractive to others” rubs me the wrong way. Others will get attracted, after all.

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 2:29 PM

What term would be better? When I have witnessed Quiverfull men telling their wives they are _forbidden to cut their hair, wear makeup or wear a seamless bra_ because “those give other men ideas” I think “attractive” is the appropriate word.

As shocking as it may seem, many women need to feel pretty NOT so that they can draw in men like a sex spider but just to feel worthy in a society that elevates beauty. Refusing to allow your wife to make herself feel pretty is a twisted response born out of insecurity, not a Biblical mandate.

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 3:04 PM

“dressing stylishly/fashionably?” It’s just the word choice I guess. If your husband started to seriously work out, and the reason he gave was that he could be attractive to others, wouldn’t you worry?

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 4:17 PM

No. Because I’m not 12, I don’t stick “do you like me circle yes or no” notes in his locker. Because I understand that when he regularly rides 100 mile bike rides and watches what he eats and says he wants to be attractive I know that he means he wants to look and feel his best to honour our partnership.

D.M. Dutcher July 8, 2013 at 5:57 PM

I still don’t like that turn of phrase. Attractive for your spouse and for others are two different things. I don’t think it’s being an insecure twelve year old if I had a SO that suddenly was into fashion because she wanted to prove she could still turn heads. Luckily I won’t have to worry about this issue much, but guys tend to take what you say literally about things like that.

Katherine Coble July 10, 2013 at 12:25 PM

So I guess this ISN’T you commenting on the specifics of my family structure even when it requires me to divulge personal specifics….

Fortuna Veritas July 8, 2013 at 1:27 PM

So you’ve seen that the outdated patriarchal notion that women belong in bondage to men is false, but because you personally dislike a few feminist women for not being “nice” and “proper,” you find yourself gravitating towards an ideology that denies women agency and full membership in the church and is often used to covertly deny women personhood.

That’s… That’s real great, Mr. Duran.

Don D July 8, 2013 at 1:32 PM

Wow! You did that so much more elegantly and concisely than I did. Hats off… 🙂

Brenda July 8, 2013 at 2:28 PM


Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 2:32 PM

Fortuna, I think experience and POV contributes to everyone’s conclusions. Don’t you? I hope to make Scripture my first guide. Frankly, it’s why I’ve been straddling the fence on this issue. I’m just trying to honestly admit that how SOME feminists come off is, I think, harming their cause. Not sure what’s wrong with that.

Brianne July 8, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Mike, if you are trying to make Scripture your first guide, I recommend this scripture study in order to get a well rounded perspective apart from your specific translation

katz July 11, 2013 at 2:52 PM

What other sorts of things would you disagree with, despite knowing logically that the case for them is strong, because you didn’t like the way they were being said? If you had a mean math teacher in school, would you announce that algebra was a big lie? Would you stay in your house during a hurricane because you didn’t like how those evacuation notices were ordering you around?

Johne Cook July 11, 2013 at 2:59 PM

That works both ways – if you had the choice of a teacher screaming at you or a teacher patiently, graciously working with you, which would you choose? If I, a stranger, get right up in your face and bellow “I LOVE YOU” at the top of my lungs so the spittle flies out out of my mouth and splatters your face, what message would you take from the encounter?

katz July 12, 2013 at 4:35 PM

None. Of. This. Has. Anything. To. Do. With. Whether. The. Things. They. Are. Saying. Are. True.

Sara July 8, 2013 at 7:37 PM

My thoughts exactly! “Some feminists are mean! I guess I’ll continue to support patriarchy!” Like, what?

Don D July 8, 2013 at 1:31 PM

A hearty thanks to Jill and Michelle P. for saving me so much time in this response with their ample articulations of why the source article and this analysis of the response to it inspire such ire among those who pay attention at all to the power dynamics of social/political/theological abuse and manipulation.

I’ll only add that there is a tiresomely long history of rhetoric from the beneficiaries of the status quo (in this case the conservative/evangelical emphasis on the submission of women to men rather than the more correct hermenuetic of mutual submission to Christ) who speak out in simpering and seething civility to chastise those who bear the costs of the status quo when they dare to speak out against it with anything like the resolve, or visceral passion of one who has been so regularly denied a voice over that same history.

The fact that some do not find their ire appealing is irrelevant to whether or not it is warranted or appropriate. The judgemental articulation of that displeasure, however “civil,” is but another tool in oppressor’s kit.

Randy Streu July 8, 2013 at 1:34 PM

I read passages like this:

“Yet when men treat women wrongly, when they forget or ignore what Jesus has done for them and take advantage of their leadership instead of using it to serve, then it is LOVE to set boundaries and to protect those women for God came to set the captives free. Spiritual submission goes hand in hand with spiritual responsibility. ”

And fail to see where she in any way glorifies abuse or counsels women to stay in an abusive relationship.

I’ll also note she appropriately, in this passage, identifies man’s role, according to the same passage in which women are told to submit to and respect their husbands.

Much is made of the couple verses in Ephesians 5:21-33, in which those admonitions are made to wives. But in all of those verses, the BULK of the passage is about a man’s responsibility. To love his wife as Christ loved the Church. And how is that? Read this passage again, but in the context of John 13:12-17 and watch specifically for the parallels between the two passages.

I don’t generally do this, but rather than simply retype everything I’ve already written on in the past, I’d like to humbly redirect to a post the subject of servitude (with a special focus on the marital relationship):

Abby Norman July 8, 2013 at 1:50 PM

I think what you are hearing is weariness. This isn’t the first time that Emily went there in a way that was both dis-respectfully condescending and mis-representative of the Christian Feminist movement. We are so very tired of these arguments. For a response that is of a gentle tone try this

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 5:57 PM

Thanks, Abby. I’ll check out that post. I have no history with Emily and took the post at face value. But again I’d ask, even if Christian feminists are weary, and even if Emily is disrespectful, condescending, and “mis-representative of the Christian Feminist movement” — which I didn’t get — does that justify being charged with glorifying abuse and having a “self-destructive hatred of women”? I dunno. It seemed quite reactionary to me.

Ryan Robinson July 8, 2013 at 1:58 PM

Up-front: I have not read the original piece by Emily. I may say something which is not applicable to that case as I speak in generalities. And yes, I am both an egalitarian/mutualist and a feminist.

I think what you’re trying to get at, and what you say Emily is trying to get at, has a point. It may not be the best conveyed, particularly in defense of abuse, but I do think you have a point that should be applied to both men and women: as servants of Jesus we are also supposed to be servants of each other. The goal of Christian maturity is not to be the independent or even to be equal. I do think that mature Christians will seek the equality of others, which is why I get passionate about gender issues and similar dangerous power dynamics, but our primary duty is to love and serve. Doesn’t matter which gender you are. Some feminists have lost that, I admit, although I don’t think any more than complementarians on average have lost it. It’s part of the Western individualistic ethos where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are more important than the well-being of your fellow human.

Now, where it sounds like it went wrong were cases like the abuse example. I would stubbornly insist to any woman (or any man) who is being abused that the most loving thing they can do for their husband (or wife) is to get out and hold them to account for their actions. If you really want to love and serve your abuser, serve them in the most important way: make sure they know that this is not ok! Being loving and serving is not the same thing as being a doormat; in fact, it is often the opposite.

I can also say that yes, I have seen other cases where feminists have eaten each other alive and come across really bitter. I’m thinking specifically of a post on Rage Against the Minivan where the author argued that a woman should expect looks of attraction – not touching, not come-ons, not leering – if she dresses in a way that shows off her body (always culturally sensitive what that means of course). I supported that idea and also got some backlash.

Then again, I’ve also seen complementarians be far more bitter, but that’s anecdotal and I don’t want to assume that it is the norm. If we’re ever going to get somewhere in conversation as spiritual family, which we are whether we agree or not, we’re going to have to drop the stereotypes (“Complementarians are just men who don’t want to give up power!” “Egalitarians are just liberals who succumbed to culture!”). There are probably some on each side like that, but we’re still all people loved by God and made in the image of God and we’re still all brothers and sisters trying to follow this Jesus guy the best way we know how.

Belle Vierge July 8, 2013 at 4:25 PM

I read the post on Rage Against the Minivan. I don’t recall your comment specifically, but this is the problem that I had.

Women are human beings who know the difference between a look and a leer. The implication in the original post, and in some of the comments (possibly yours), was

1) that silly women DON’T know the difference between the two so
2) if women wear anything that could possibly be considered sexy by men, we should expect looks that make us feel uncomfortable, but
3) we can’t get upset about it, because we’re wearing sexy clothes.

THAT was the problem many of us had with the post and the comments.

thatmom July 8, 2013 at 2:36 PM

“Men are called on to submit to Jesus Christ, and women are called to submit to their husbands. We will not be held accountable, if we are married, for how we submitted to Jesus but for how we served our husbands. It is our husbands who will be kept accountable for how they submit to Jesus.”

This is the reason so many people reacted to Emily. This is terrible theology, no matter how nice she may be.

Jessica Thomas July 8, 2013 at 4:01 PM

“We will not be held accountable, if we are married, for how we submitted to Jesus but for how we served our husbands. It is our husbands who will be kept accountable for how they submit to Jesus.”

What??? Wrong. Clearly wrong.

Katherine Coble July 8, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Terrible theology…unless you’re Mormon.

Jill July 8, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Would you like your poison sugar-coated or plain?

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 5:51 PM

To be clear, Karen, that quote wasn’t in her post, but in the comments. But I agree that it’s problematic.

thatmom July 9, 2013 at 4:19 AM

This is part of the “prophet, priest, and king” philosophy that is being taught throughout the patriocentric camps these days and is moving into mainstream evangelicalism. It is the message of the “federal husband” movement.

Katherine Coble July 9, 2013 at 5:27 AM

I was just telling my husband (in a submissive way 😉 ) this last night. We actually left a church 12 years ago because the pastor’s “Priest Prophet King” sermon was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

That description is used in Scripture for Christ. Just because you pastor a mid sized Nazarene church in a Nashville suburb doesn’t give you reason to assume Christhood upon yourself.

Sara July 8, 2013 at 7:46 PM

Yep. She flat out says that a woman’s husband is essentially supposed to be her god. And people wonder why she got the reaction that she did?? Give me a break.

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 7:52 PM

Sarah, I don’t think she’s saying “a woman’s husband is essentially supposed to be her god.” C’mon. Comments like that just seem over-the-top.

Sara July 8, 2013 at 7:57 PM


She said that women will be judged for how well they submitted to their husbands. She says that Jesus is essentially an afterthought for Christian women. That their lives should revolve around their husbands and not Jesus. How is that NOT making the husband into a god?

Sara July 8, 2013 at 7:58 PM

Also, how hard is it to spell someone’s name right, when it’s right in front of you? My name is S-a-r-a.

Mike Duran July 8, 2013 at 8:03 PM

Excuse me, Sara. “She says that Jesus is essentially an afterthought for Christian women.” This totally misrepresents Emily’s blog post. Sorry.

Sara July 8, 2013 at 8:08 PM

No, it really doesn’t.

Don D July 9, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Not at all. It is one of the telling peeks at her underlying assumptions of the hierarchical superiority of men. It does seem more appalling to hear it boiled down as concisely as you rendered it Sara, but I agree that you are merely rendering what is, sadly, already there.

Beverley Molineaux July 8, 2013 at 3:16 PM

My response to Emily’s original post. Reading this post and comments after here is how I still feel about her poorly written blog.

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