14 November 2011

Rejecting both Patriarchy and Egalitarianism in the Church- Part 4

Final segment....

And with Pietism you always abandon wisdom for a checklist. You can’t think through issues and say this might be okay for this kid and not for that one, or this might be okay on occasion. Or (and this never seems to arise), maybe I don’t know that family’s situation and though they’re not doing things the way we do…it’s really not my place to judge them.

One quick example. I can think of an instance where a family had the wife working part time. That’s heavily frowned upon by Patriarchal minded folks.

The wife doesn’t have the early 20th century dress-look... and it could be easily interpreted that she’s just a feminist type that wants to be independent and get away from her kids, and obviously they’re not walking with the Lord.

That’s probably a pretty tame assessment coming from a Patriarchal standpoint.

It may be true. I see it often enough. But it also may be that they’ve got some major financial problem. Maybe they’ve got a health issue with no insurance and if she works 15 hours a week they can get some coverage because of the job she can get versus what he has. Maybe they’re helping someone else out, a family member, a friend. There are a lot of possibilities.

Again, maybe that’s not what I would do. My wife has never worked outside the home. BUT…who am I to trample their consciences? What if you went and talked to them and found out, they’re in anguish over the whole thing. They’re not sure what to do. Maybe the congregation they belong to is full of greedy folks that won’t help?

At the end of the day, I want to be real careful. I meet plenty of people that obviously are not ordering their families in a godly manner. I’ve met some that want to and are struggling to understand what the Bible teaches and how to implement it. Sometimes a host of circumstances can make it tough to change things. Sometimes change takes time. A lot of the Patriarchal folks are not patient and not very understanding of those who haven’t got it all together like they do.

I’ve known other families that are disorderly and they don’t care and have little interest in really trying to understand what the Bible says and conforming to it. That’s obviously a problem.

There are others who acknowledge what the Bible says regarding women being keepers at home, but they’re in a terrible dilemma and they’re unsure what to do. Increasingly I find there are situations, both in my life, in others, and in society where there simply are no good solutions. It seems like no matter what you do, it’s not satisfactory. It’s not right.

This will sound flimsy but….you do the best you can.

Where’s the heart at? Is it indifferent or defiant? Or is it seeking God and trying to do what’s right even though you can’t seem to do anything right?

And there are others who come from very different worlds and can’t identify with some of the narrative elements found among the Patriarchal crowd. I think of how some of them are really into emulating the ideas of the Antebellum South. Will a black American who converts to Christianity get excited about Stonewall Jackson? What about an immigrant from China? Are they going to appreciate RL Dabney the way the Patriarchal folks do? And if they don’t, are they less Christian for not embracing the Patriarchal Southern agrarian critique of Northern industrial society?

If a person in Cambodia is reading their Bible, or even persons over a long period of time…are they going to come up with the Cambodian version of Vision Forum? If not, why? If the answer is culture or cultural context, then are Vision Forum and other advocates of Biblical Patriarchy deriving their ideas from the Bible or are they imposing a cultural narrative on the Bible?

What if this person from Cambodia learns American history? Due to their Bible reading will they naturally gravitate toward the pro-Southern Agrarian position held by so many in the Patriarch movement?

What if they’re like me and they want to resoundingly critique both sides? What if I want to say that Lincoln was lying opportunistic megalomaniac with blood on his hands, but I also want to say that Dabney, Thornwell and most of the Southern Church were a bunch of racists and that the South cannot justify its culture from the Bible? What if I point out that the Northern Aggression narrative doesn’t really stand when many of the Southern generals had as young men been proponents of aggression as they warred against Mexico and expanded America’s continental empire?

So while I can go down the Biblical Patriarchy checklist and somewhat agree with many of the points, the spirit and source in which I hold them, as well as the questions that flow out of it…are very different.

I’m pro-child and am all for Christians having kids, but Patriarchy demands what Kunsman rightly calls ‘militant fecundity’  rooted in the Dominion Mandate. The Church will conquer by our vast birthrate. Having babies becomes part of the gospel. The Kingdom is literally reduced to growing numerically. That’s not the Kingdom I read about in the New Testament.

Now I will be suspected as a Margaret Sanger-loving birth control advocate. No way, not even close. But I will say some of the issues surrounding this have not been frankly dealt with by the Church. The discussions are clouded again by Transformative Theology and politics as well as the fact that much of the Church has embraced technologies inconsistent with the positions they advocate, but that’s for another post. For now I will only say that again I can sympathize with what the Biblical Patriarchy folks are saying about birth control and children, but my reasons are quite different and thus generate a different set of questions.

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