Thursday, July 19, 2012

Relational Rapport and Egalitarian Musings

While I found Eric's post on TGC helpful, I found his follow-up to not only be insightful, but almost a mirror image of my relationship with Allison. I shall explain after showing some of Eric's thoughts.

Reitan:

My wife is strong. She is determined. She is stubborn. She reaches for and accomplishes what most others imagine to be impossible. I am married to this woman, and I am proud of her. Proud to have her as a partner in life. Grateful that she is the person who stands beside me in raising our children...
I'm not sure what they'd say about my marriage to a soon-to-be Ironman triathlete. She is physically stronger than me. She does things I cannot fathom. But I'm not jealous. I'm proud of her. My manhood isn't threatened, because I don't buy into such a stupid, banal, and destructively straight-jacketing vision of gender relationships as the one that the Wilsons endorse. If I did, our marriage would collapse. As it is, our marriage grows.  
The rest of the post is worth your time, but I wanted to personalize some of the data in my own life. Allison has struggled with some issues in her past, and has since become one of the strongest women I've ever known. I count it a blessing to have a partner who has never considered herself greater than me, nor has esteemed me to the point of inflating my ego.

The issue of complementarianism came up early in our relationship, after we had begun our first school semester apart. We met at Biola Allison's final year and decided to pursue one another during her final Summer before her fated trip to Westminster. I was raised complementarian, and had never experienced anything but. My paradigm was narrow and I wasn't prepared for actually experiencing anything outside of my narrow frame of reference.

The worst part about the gender discussion wasn't that it happened. Instead, it happened over the course of thirty or more phones calls, which involved missed communications, frequent silences and difficult to reconcile passages. I actually (for the first time at Biola) tried to formulate a biblical argument to counter-act Allison's. Like Eric's bride, Allison has a stubborn streak grounded not only in independence, but of a desire to learn and grow.

I honestly threw everything I had at her. I spent weeks attempting to show (bully?) her into accepting the plain meaning of I Timothy 2. However, I did realize something. I realized that if I had convinced her to change her mind and return to complementarianism, I wasn't actually interested in leading.

I never was. I never had any desire to lead her or have her submit to me. I had been reacting to a challenge by another to the foundations of my preconceived paradigm. Instead of listening and learning, I was reacting.

This challenged me, and really got me thinking. I had some sun spots in Scripture that I couldn't shade. Deborah was one, as well as Paul's treatise on marriage and relationship in I Corinthians 7 (which was a shock to me, I didn't even know those verses existed). I am the type of person that has a strong disdain for inconsistency, especially for myself. If I cannot have a harmonized (within reason) theology, this bothers me greatly.

So that is a brief summary about how I began to rethink my preconceived paradigm about women and relationship. During this time, I had never once considered the roots of sexism or mistreatment of women due to the fact that I hadn't experienced it. I mean, I had experienced some religious intolerance, but that had nothing to do with my gender.

I found that it is easier to dismiss sexism and the mistreatment of others if one is unwilling to reexamine their paradigm. It is easier to dismiss sexism if one is in the majority, as it is easier to ignore the plights of the minority. I realize that such things require time and the influence of the Holy Spirit, and I hope that both are working together for us. And, of course, I could be wrong.

So, I suppose I am fully grateful to have a woman who can kiss me and kick my ass. I had no anticipation as to submit to my girlfriend, and now that we are together as one, I couldn't imagine anything less. 

For Eric's thoughts, please click here.

--Nick

3 comments:

  1. "I found that it is easier to dismiss sexism and the mistreatment of others if one is unwilling to reexamine [one's own] paradigm. It is easier to dismiss sexism if one is in the majority, as it is easier to ignore the plights of the minority. I realize that such things require time and the influence of the Holy Spirit, and I hope that both are working together for us."

    YES. I find these statements to be very profound, and of very wide application (i.e., beyond gender issues). Thank you.

    As for the complementarianism / egalitarianism dichotomy, I don't think it's a true dichotomy, as some couples need the one, and others thrive with the other. Both require work, openness, honesty, prayer, and mutual submission -- to Christ and to each other. Scripture is certainly not monolithic on the point, and there are deep values in human partnerships that go far beyond sound-bite statements in Timothy.

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  2. Here's a striking comment by Eric Reitan in another essay of his that expresses what I was trying to get at: "Each couple should negotiate their relationship on their own terms, based on the unique characteristics of the individuals involved, as opposed to conforming to some pre-established complementarian standard."
    http://thepietythatliesbetween.blogspot.com/2012/07/complementarianism-without-hierarchy.html

    And here's a fine article by Dianna Anderson on the Trinity as it applies to gender:
    http://diannaeanderson.net/?p=1255

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the links, Penn. I'll peruse them in the near future once I'm done with Volf's "Allah."

      Have you heard of Kevin Giles' work on the trinity and gender debate? Pretty controversial stuff. I think David Congdon of Princeton has done some work on that one as well.

      In fact, here is David's link. Quite interesting.

      http://fireandrose.blogspot.com/2012/06/trinity-gender-and-subordination-series.html

      Blessings as always. ;)

      --Nick

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