Marriage

He Said — Egalitarianism: Who Needs Repentance Anyway?

Bride and groom on beach, szefei / Shutterstock.com

Bride and groom on beach, szefei / Shutterstock.com

Editor's note: This is a He Said, She Said on the issue. To read this author's wife's take, go HERE.

My wife and I have been embroiled in a deep debate lately. It involves gender roles, complementarianism, egalitarianism, and often threats of a kick landing somewhere on my body. It’s not that we haven’t worked this sort of thing out within our marriage — I take out the trash, she does the laundry — but somehow despite both being raised in Christian households we do not see theologically quite eye to eye on this issue.

I happen to fall on the side of complementarianism. For me this does not threaten the basic equality or God-given image and sense of worth that belongs to all humankind. But I do happen to think men and women were designed differently biologically and otherwise. Yesterday morning in yoga, I did my downward dog alongside 15 women and one other guy. I work in the same building as a special needs school with 22 female teachers and only one dude. I am happy to say that there are some areas women seem to be drawn toward, and in my opinion, excel in.

My wife on the other hand would like to argue (and does) that to pointing out any differences whatsoever leads necessarily to thinking in terms of an inequality. She believes that many of the Biblical mandates on gender roles have more to do with timing and culture than God-given norms.

'Abstinence-Only' Exposed

Girl wearing a "purity ring" that says, "It's for you ... not him." Photo by LovelySoulsCollide via Wylio.

"Chastity is getting a makeover. Surrounded by a sex-saturated society, millions of young people are pledging to remain virgins until their wedding night. But how, exactly, are evangelical Christians convincing young people to say no when society says yes?"

So writes Christine J. Gardner in her brilliant new book Making Chastity Sexy: The Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns.

Making Chastity Sexy is important and perceptive in a profound way that casts light on a large subject — religion in general and evangelicalism in particular when it comes to attitudes toward sex, life, and religion.

Gardner (an evangelical herself who teaches at an evangelical school) takes her readers far beyond the mere investigation of sex education/abstinence campaigns to make the point that individualistic society and the autonomous self have become the sole means of the "wait until marriage" virginity-sanctifying movement.

In other words the evangelicals are using pop culture techniques just to make abstinence "sexy."

Let's Talk About (Complementary) Sex

On the one hand, I’m encouraged when Christians can have more honest, open dialogue about sex and sexuality in the public forum.

On the other, I’m more than a little distressed when the matter at hand is about “Biblically-based” sexual submission.

For those unfamiliar, there are (at least) two camps in the Christian conversation about gender roles, one of which we can call “egalitarian,” and the other calls itself “complementarian.” The implication of the latter is that, though we are not the same, we males and females fit together in many ways like pieces of a puzzle, one complementing something the other lacks, and  vice-versa.

And if the definition of complementarianism stopped there, I would be on board; but in truth it’s a thinly veiled case for women submitting to men. Sorry, but this isn’t complementary; it’s authoritarian.

In a recent post, Rachel Held Evans explained the troublesome issues with complementarianism well:

…For modern-day Christian patriarchalists (sometimes called complementarians), hierarchal gender relationships are God-ordained, so the essence of masculinity is authority, and essence of femininity is submission. Men always lead and women always follow. There is no sphere unaffected by this hierarchy—not even, it seems, sex.

Men Can't Have It All, and Why They Never Did

Overwhelmed man image, Rene Jansa / Shutterstock.com

Overwhelmed man image, Rene Jansa / Shutterstock.com

Five of my female Facebook friends had posted the article in a span of about two hours. The headline, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” stared at me, daring me to respond.

Read it, first. Then come back here. Go ahead, take the half-hour (it’s a long one). Read the WHOLE thing.

Back?

OK, so there are some good points in there, right? If you want to be a political power player in Washington, D.C., forcing you to live long-distance from your husband and children, maaaaybe you’re not going to be the happiest person ever. Maybe you can’t “have it all.”

But why is that the question to begin with? Why does this topic of conversation perennially rear it’s head to make women feel like they’re not doing it right? And why is the question never asked of men?

Obama and the Two Types of Marriage

In the wake of President Obama's declaration of his personal support for the right of same-sex couples to marry under civil law, the nation is understandably focused on debating the merits of this position. Three related points from President Obama's announcement, however, deserve our attention as well.

First, President Obama noted that there is an important difference between civil marriage and religious marriage. The state defines civil marriage, which serves as the gateway for a wide variety of government benefits, rights and privileges. Religious marriage, on the other hand, is defined solely by religious communities.

These categories may be fuzzy in our minds because current law not only respects the ability of clergy and religious communities to define and bless religious marriage, it also allows clergy to solemnize civil marriage. That's why one often hears a minister conclude a wedding by saying, "By the authority vested in me by the state of X, I now pronounce you husband and wife."

Setting aside the oddity of a minister claiming the authority of the state rather than a higher power, the fact that the state allows clergy to bring a civil marriage into being does not mean it can require clergy to bless or recognize any relationship the state defines as civil marriage.

Does Love Last Longer in Arranged Marriages?

Wedding photo, MNStudio / Shutterstock.com

Wedding photo, MNStudio / Shutterstock.com

Elke Thompson’s high-school friends think she’s nuts, she said. But in the Unification Church, arranged marriages are the norm. The Rev. Sun Myung Moonteaches that romantic love leads to sexual promiscuity, mismatched couples and dysfunctional societies. 

Several religions practice arranged marriages. Hindu and Jewish matchmakers abound, for instance. But rarely does it rise to the level of dogma. Unificationists believe that marriages arranged through the church and blessed by Moon are “sinless” and foster the kingdom of God on earth, one happy family at a time. 

Obama and Gay Marriage: In U.S. Religion, the Golden Rule Rules

Open Bible,  Robyn Mackenzie / Shutterstock.com

Open Bible, Robyn Mackenzie / Shutterstock.com

As pundits and politicians struggle to divine the political fallout from President Obama’s sudden endorsement of same-sex marriage, one thing has become clear: The Golden Rule invoked by Obama to explain his change of heart is the closest thing Americans have to a common religious law, and that has important implications beyond the battle for gay rights.

In fact, one of the most striking aspects of Obama’s revelation on Wednesday (May 9) that he and his wife, Michelle, support marriage rights for gays and lesbians, is that he invoked their Christian faith to support his views. In past years, Obama – as many believers still do – had cited his religious beliefs to oppose gay marriage.

Obama told ABC News that he and the first lady “are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a (Hindu) Match

Hindu Marriage, jaimaa/Shutterstock.com

Hindu Marriage, jaimaa/Shutterstock.com

Kamna Mittal and her husband moved to the Bay Area soon after they were married in India in 2000. In addition to being in a new country, the couple were new to each other. Their marriage had been arranged.

"When you go for an arranged marriage," she said, "it's a total gamble."

Now a mother of two, Mittal counts herself lucky that it worked out, but 12 years later, she wants to help Indian-American singles in the Bay Area meet directly.

Turns out even love can use a little help every now and then, and the age-old practice of arranged Hindu marriages is getting a 21st-century makeover.

Vicar Sentenced for Conducting Sham Marriages

Bride and groom, MNStudio/Shutterstock.com

Bride and groom, MNStudio/Shutterstock.com

 

A Church of England vicar has been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for conducting hundreds of bogus weddings and illegally pocketing more than 30,000 pounds ($48,000) in fees.

The Rev. Brian Shipsides was convicted and sentenced Tuesday (April 3) for carrying out a "meticulously planned and orchestrated" immigration fraud over a 2 1/2 period at All Saints Church in east London.

Authorities said the vicar conducted the fake marriages of non-Europeans, mostly Nigerians, to European partners to try to obtain immigration rights to stay in Britain.

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