03 August, 2006

Presbuteras: to Weekend Fisher

It feels odd to reply at length to a comment with which I agree, but when a comment is tough it's tough. Be sure to give it a good read under, "to Codepoke." I will be pulling some quotes from her post, and they will make more sense in context.

You will see that Weekend Fisher's post cleared up how women address abuse, delved deeply into motive and direction in bringing abuse into a doctrinal discussion, and asked some seriously probing questions. I answered them at my usual length ;-), so I guess I should return her courtesy and turn my answers into a post. If etiquette dictates otherwise, I will gladly not make this mistake again.


Mostly, thanks for saying that the first post was a good place to start the discussion! That's encouraging. Your points on outrage and how it is wrongly and rightly expressed were all excellent. I also agree that the topic of abuse needs to be addressed with discretion. My next post moves beyond it, and when we get to the scripture my focus will be on the organization of the church along scriptural guidelines. I would have done all this in the comment thread, but if this is cool with everyone, it's cool with me.

Whether egalitarians or complementarians have the scripture right, the problem of abuse in the church must be addressed. I don't hear my complementarian brothers addressing it, but I do hear them telling my sisters that they cannot. That is very disconcerting to me. I assert that complementarianism fails to address the problem of abuse because complementarianism is not scriptural. Note that I do not assert the reverse. Failing to address this problem does not prove their position non-scriptural, but it does beg examination.

I've been in on a good number of those talks ... I've never heard any of us say "boys will be boys".

That's good news.

At the moment I wrote that, I was thinking of a mother I know who was given this explanation to comfort her daughter, and of another case with an abused wife. I could have been clearer about that. Hopefully you are right, and my sample is not representative.

We're a sisterhood.

I love those words. Praise the Lord for that bond.

I'm very suspicious of the topic of sexual abuse being used for political ends or to score points in an argument.

I understand.

Does it help that I am responding to real events, not doctrinal predispositions? People I dearly love have been hurt by popular complementarian arguments used explicitly to shut their mouths. These men didn't just say, "boys will be boys," and leave it at that. They quoted verses about wives asking their questions of their husbands at home, and about not being allowed to question the anointed of the Lord. They accused these women of rebellion which is worse than witchcraft. They reminded them that Eve was "first in the offense," and that their judgement was not to be trusted because Eve was deceived. When those arguments are used to sweep abuse under the rug, they become part of the discussion.

I get that maybe all my friends have encountered bad apples, but these bad apples are using scripture inappropriately. Nobody on either side of this discussion wants to see innocents abused, but it's happening nonetheless, and complementarian interpretations of scripture enable the process. As long as those passages are interpreted wrongly, they will be available for other bad apples. My intent is to take an amateur crack at fixing those verses, but not without first looking at the damage their misuse has caused.

Does sexual abuse really and legitimately flow from a complementarian viewpoint? Nope.

Nope. I absolutely agree, in the same way that laziness does not really and legitimately flow from a communist economy. Laziness comes from evil human hearts, but communism gives laziness a warm place to nest. The ideas behind communism are appealing, but they rely too much on the selflessness of mankind. Bad idea.

Empowering women seems to provide the same kind of natural corrective to the abuse of women that capitalism supplies to communism. I recognize that as the greed engine behind capitalism introduces its own flaws, so will egalitarianism not be a panacea. If egalitarianism is not scriptural, then it will not fix the problem at all! I assert that it is scriptural, and that the problems it introduces will be less than the ones it fixes.

The issue needs to be addressed by both sides, in either case.

If law and order ever collapse again in our lifetimes, I think the "oppressive" statutes of the past will make a whole lot of sense. It's still a fair question what makes sense here and now.

Let me be clear that I am talking about abuse in the church, between members, and policed by leaders in the church. I'm talking about fathers and brothers abusing their own sisters in the Lord and those sisters watching the abuse swept under the rug by the "clear scriptures" that say men can do that. These things are done by bad apples, but I ask what the complementarian plan is to stop those bad apples. The current plan is not working, and I don't see a new one on the horizon. I assert that they cannot come up with a strong plan, because their interpretation of scripture is flawed. That discussion is still to come.

As far as oppressive societal rules go, they are a red herring to me. I still leave elevators after every lady, and open doors when given the opportunity. I'm old fashioned and see no reason to change that. I would jump at the chance to carry out my part in any rule that said women should be escorted in public at all times - as long as women had their part in making that rule. When the oppressive rules extend into the church, though, and start telling women that they have less voice in the body of Christ than scripture affords, then I get all wrapped around an axle.

Thanks for your openness, WF.


Milly said...

I've now read both and I'm eager for more. This will be God led I can feel it.

I'm praying for a healing of the heart, spirit and body of those hurt by abuse.

Danny Kaye said...

Speaking of etiquette...I find myself as a commenter trying to figure out on whose blog I should comment.

Solution = cut and paste into both. ;-)

I must say that WF stole a bit of my thunder. (Though she expressed it much better than I could anyway.) It was the word "most" that got to me. It assumed that either most of the men are abusing most of the women, or that a few men are abusing most of the women and most of the men are keeping quiet about it.

I have not sat in on very many meetings about abusive situations. But the ones in which I have sat in on have never ended with the "poo-pooing" by a male leader. There has always been corrective action taken. The authorities have even been notified when necessary.

I will not pretend to be naive and say that the situations you (Codepoke) talked about don't exist. But to say that most women are abused seems a bit of a stretch.

Having said all that, let me jump onto the other side of the fence for a sec.

I will say that if a brother or sister knows of abuses in the church, then it is his or her responsibility before God to report it and make sure the perp is dealt with. This responsibility surely falls into the catagory of sheparding God's people (and non-Christians, too, for that matter).

OK...now back to the other, other side of the fence again...

I know we will eventually get to the "women in leadership" issue. But for now I just want to say that simply because there are abuses within and without the church, doesn't mean the roles should be changed to "make up for the slights and plights against women." I believe that would be in line with paying today's minorities for what happened over a hundred and fifty years ago.

I like the heart of what you are saying. It is compassionate, passionate, and honest. I just haven't been convinced, yet, that it is biblical grounds for women's roles in leadership over men.

Let me add one more thing...
Weekend fisher said:
"And what outrage there is tends to take the form of wanting to kill the perpetrator in slow and nasty ways, which I think, my own opinion here, approaches zero on the helpfulness scale. ("Great. And the person who cares the most is either wasting his time or will end up in jail, and is turning himself into a revenge-crazed co-victim and posing in his hero cape, meanwhile never having offered me a shoulder or a hand-up.")"

BINGO!!! I don't know how many times I have heard about a situation in the news (or in life close to home) and found myself instantly steeped in sin with thoughts of cruel and unusual punishments that should be issued to men and women who do such vicious things to innocents.

God forgive my obviously evil tendencies and grant me the heart of love...even toward those who, by even the world's standards, don't deserve a speck of it.

codepoke said...


Solution = cut and paste into both. ;-)

I can always count on you to cut the Gordian Knot. :-D

It was the word "most" that got to me.

Janet had the same question on my previous post, and I answered it there.

There has always been corrective action taken. The authorities have even been notified when necessary.

That's truly good news.

But to say that most women are abused seems a bit of a stretch.

My personal experience seems to vary widely from the 28% number presented by the therapist. In a fit of illogic, I tend rather to doubt the statistics than my own eyes (you know - lies, damned lies, and statistics...) If you will accept the 28% number, and accept that this is tragic, then I think we are on the same sheet of music.

I will say that if a brother or sister knows of abuses in the church, then it is his or her responsibility before God to report it and make sure the perp is dealt with.

Agreed. I wish it always happened that way. So do the victims. I'm glad it does in a number of cases. I'm confident there are no valid statistics on what that number might be.

I just haven't been convinced, yet, that it is biblical grounds for women's roles in leadership over men.

That would be why I specifically said, "The emotional argument is no proof." The burden of proof in this discussion is on me, but before I can even start, I have to present a valid reason to bother with the discussion. There must be concrete reasons that abandoning the status quo should be considered.

If egalitarianism can address the problem of abuse of women in our churches better than complementarianism, then it should at least get a solid look before it is rejected. The solid look begins next week.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey Milly

Thank you for the kind words. On the "eager for more" bit, I do plan on having more to say but first I'm planning to hear out what Kevin has to say. I made the long comment over on my blog at this point in the conversation because I thought that introducing sexual abuse and putting it at the complementarian door was a stretch, and an unfair one. Kevin's answer was along the lines of "complementarianism is putting the fox in charge of the henhouse". I think when the hens are in charge of the foxhouse, we'll see a lot of tethered and henpecked foxes. I'm skeptical whether we (humans in general) have it in ourselves to really balance leadership. Which means one side is going to end up leading for practical purposes, and that side will likely be unfair to the other. Not saying it's right, just saying it's human nature.

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