Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Joel. Michawn. {Part 61 - Why So Defensive?}

I came across an excellent thread on Facebook this morning.  The person posted...

"Why is it when you bring up Biblical equality in marriage or how wrong "male headship" (submission) really is... men mostly, but some women too, get really defensive? And mean! I often feel attacked for even bringing up the thought of equality. I hear things like, "well because of what you've been through... of course you'll see things that way." I'm still healing my own wounds but I'm feeling pretty wounded by others in my life who have been a support to me... until I started talking about equality and anything having to do with egalitarianism. Any thoughts on, why so defensive?"

Great question.  Boy oh boy, have I experienced this.  I love all of the many answers she got. Answers that weren't vindictive of those that become so defensive, but truly very reasonable and logical reasons for why they might react that way.  All very true.  I've highlighted a few of them here...
Because unquestioning submission requires an *incredible* amount of effort. Not just in serving someone, but in re-tooling your mind to accept unquestioning submission as a good thing, when, at the same time, you oppose things like slavery & abuse. "This sacrifice I'm making doesn't make sense now, but God will use it for His glory." It takes an incredible amount of mental gymnastics to do it every.single.day, in every conversation, in every interaction, and when you do it, you do it with an attitude of *worshipping God.* So, if someone comes along & says, "You don't need to do that," ESPECIALLY while you're in the middle of a particularly difficult day of pretzel-logic service, then it's easy to lash out & say, "How could you minimize the incredible sacrifice I'm making for God's glory? How *dare* you?" The thought that all that work isn't even needed is unfathomable & offensive.
Wow!  Well said.
They know that if they give up their belief in male headship/etc. then they will lose who they are inside themselves, in their closest relationships, in their church family, maybe in their extended family, and in their social circles. And they are right. Anytime someone changes one of their basic beliefs it affects their entire life.
Their entire life!  It really does.
I think that men get upset because you are challenging the last post of male privilege. If complementarianism is wrong, then a whole lot of assumptions about the assumed nature of women is wrong. Men would have to start doing so much more, and they'll be out of their comfort zone. As for women, some of them just don't want to do the thinking because it's too hard, and they'd rather have 'pastor' do their thinking for them. I think that misogyny of men, and laziness of women are the biggest crimes against women. Don't forget too that the social construct of their churches is huge. No one wants to be the balls crunching, man hating, 'she must be hurting because she's trying so hard to hurt everyone else' recipient of false and humiliating sympathy. Things are changing, but it's still hard to be a feminist or an egalitarian. Finally, let me say that the minute anyone admits to being egal. some bogan wants to brandish his King James and 'prove'' how right he is. We all get tired of that. I suggest to you that a lot of women are taking the easy way out.
:)  I've had the KJV thrown at me several times.  Makes me laugh.  Not at the person, but at the idea that a translation (that is an English translation only...much of the world doesn't even have this heralded KJV, lol) should somehow be praised and put before the original language.

And my favorite comment...
When I realized how badly men had treated women in the church throughout history, I nearly had a stroke. It's very, very challenging to look that kind of ugliness in the face and admit that it is real--that it is true. It's very difficult to recognize that MY denomination's doctrines may be based on a legacy of sexism and misogyny.  
Also, as a "Christian man," I may have an idea of "how the world should work according to God's infallible Word," and now I'm being told that "male authority" is not actually "biblical". So, my all male Elders are wrong in their beliefs and practices. Canon law is wrong. If I'm Catholic, the Pope is wrong. If I'm a Protestant, John Calvin is wrong. Martin Luther is wrong. My English translations of the Bible that tell me "clearly" that women may not "teach" or "exercise authority" over a man are "wrong." The Latin Vulgate is wrong. Early church fathers? Wrong again.  
The rug has been ripped out from under me, the flooring is on fire, and I find myself holding an empty can of gasoline. I can look all of this in the face, admit the ugly truth, seek God for repentance and the strength to stand up for love and equality...or I can say, "Problem, what problem? You must be reacting out of personal hurt."  
Too many men, and some women, in my experience, choose the easier path of denial. If they deny the real problem (a culture of sexism), then YOU must be the problem. So, you must be silenced. Usually, you will be guilted, shamed, falsely accused and criticized; you may even be intimidated. If this was the Middle Ages...well let's not even go there just now. 
What the church needs to experience freedom from the sin of subjugation on the basis of sex is the truth shared in love, mixed with humility, faith and repentance.  
It just so happens that on the issue of alleged "male authority" Calvin, Luther, the early church fathers, the Latin Vulgate, most English translation of the Bible really are wrong. Why do I think this? Well, they don't agree with Jesus, or the message of his earliest followers. Something went badly wrong somewhere. Generally, it is believed this happened in the 3rd-4th centuries A.D. when patriarchal and ascetic philosophies were used as an interpretive framework for the Bible. We've been repeating the errors of that period for centuries--confusing the "traditions of men with the word of God." How history repeats itself...
I will fight to my death to change this history from repeating itself...at least around me and my sphere of influence in my lifetime.
I think when people's core beliefs (especially if they are misbeliefs) are challenged, people can feel deeply threatened. After all, truth only hurts lies.
That's a pretty good bottom-liner.
What we hold as "truth" is usually more than head knowledge, reason, and logic. It involves our emotions and goes down to identity - who we believe we are, how we think we are supposed to relate to the world around us, and what we hold to be "right." 
When "truth" is challenged, we first react from our emotions and try to come up with reasons to defend what we believe. We all do this. For some, when presented with logic and reason that raises cognitive dissonance, emotional defenses are raised even higher leading to reactions such as anger and personal attacks.  
A theological system may be the deepest and most personal core belief system. When a part of that core is questioned and shown logically to be in doubt, what does it say about the rest of the system and the authorities in which it is based? It is indeed deeply threatening.
Identity is huge.  In everyone's lives.  And when that identity is threatened or changes, it's hard.  Some people's reactions to that is that defensiveness that comes out.
Anytime someone feels threatened, they react. A common reaction is to say that the other person is the problem. A common means of control is to attempt to limit someone by telling them they are too much or not enough.
All of these comments given here ring true in my life and what has occurred the past few years.  But none more so than this...than 'saying that the other person is the problem.'  That 'other person' here in my situation being me.
I used to be pretty defensive about anything other than Complementarianism. When I turned Egal I realized it would not only change how I viewed men and women but also unravel a lot of other weak doctrines of mine. It was like a domino effect. The base of my defensiveness was fear of not having all the answers and the fear that God would be angry with me for asking questions. 
Then I found out God doesn't get mad at me for questioning. Some Christians do but not God.  :)
Amen.  Christians get way more offended than Jesus ever does.  Let that sink in.  That's a huge problem.
"Because of what you've been through" is a gaslighting statement. The assumption is that somehow you just need healing and you will accept our doctrine of male headship. Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic designed to make you question yourself. I also have experienced more questions from women on headship. And I think that some women are ok with it and don't understand why it feels oppressive to others. I was OK with it for many years until I began to feel depressed. Not having much of a voice or having my thoughts and feelings counted took a great toll on my personhood. I came to the egal position because God began to teach me the scriptures for myself and began to lead me to this. I did not look to "feminism" ... I literally heard the Lord's voice challenging me to study more and discover that there were other ways of thinking about Ephesians 5...
I was raised in complementarianism and taught to have a complementarian marriage.  I didn't even know another way existed.  We were taught that in our church when we were just friends, we were taught that in our pre-marital counseling, etc.  But, we had a functional egalitarian marriage.  Why? Because that is what works best.  You have to be partners in life, always.  Every marriage needs that, but especially a marriage in a lifestyle like ours was...always on the go, always transitioning, never any stability present except that partnership.  That's why when I was betrayed and the partnership gone, it was so devastating and changed everything so drastically.  Life as we knew it wasn't going to continue.

So, like this commenter above, I 'was OK with it' and didn't see the dangers in theology that teaches gender roles and male headship...only because those dangers hadn't affected me yet in my own marriage.  Those dangers are immanent in complementarianism.
As to men: they don't want to lose power.  As to women: they don't want to have to grow up.  Patriarchy keeps men in power and women in a kind of infantile state.  That's why either sex get defensive over this issue.
"Patriarchy keeps men in power and women in a kind of infantile state."  This is so very true.  Even very, very strong women and leaders...they are kept in an infantile state when compared to and up next to a man.  I think of my beloved Elisabeth Elliot.  I revere her very much.  But, I feel she could have been even more effective had she been in a church/group of people where everyone saw men and women as equals and nobody had to 'cower themselves' or shrink in functioning.  Where everyone was able to just be themselves fully...in all that God made them to be.

And yes...God made them to be that way...it's not some misguided claim to giftings.
I think part of it is that the idea of what male headship means (he's the spiritual leader, wife only submission, and the like) has been taught for so long as Biblical truth that it is hard to consider that it is an error because then one might start asking what else has been wrong. I think the idea of questioning teachings can be scary for some as if questioning means they have a weak faith.
So true.
I know this has probably already been said repeatedly, but the two things I see that lead to that kind of defensiveness is a fear of losing control and a fear of the unknown. Both can get people so defensive they end up lashing out at those trying to help them understand.
Fear is the true bottom line as far as the reaction of defensiveness.  Because if there was no fear, even if one didn't agree, they still wouldn't get so defensive.
I've been married 18 years now and we've never had a conflict that needed one 'leader' to break the tie -- it's called being a grown up and discussing! I'm also so glad that we are raising our children to know that they don't have to be tied to certain roles -- and that their opinions and ideas matter!
I just loved this truth.  It's called being a grown-up!!  Compromise, really listening to each other and believing and trusting each other, really taking into account the thoughts and feelings of each other...that is what we once had in our marriage...and all because we really functioned in an egalitarian way.  Complementarianism puts the wife in that infantile position...where her thoughts and feelings don't matter as much.
One of the ways that dominants, patriarchalists, extreme comps, etc. will use to shut down women is to put forth the idea that 'wounded' women cannot be trusted to be led of God in spiritual teaching, preaching, or leadership.
This is how so many people have dismissed me.  "Oh, well she's just been wounded.  Of course she says these things now...she's broken.  She doesn't want to stick with 'God's ways'...she'd rather believe something else because it's easier for her."  Etc. etc. etc.

So I just thought I'd share with you all that it is SO VERY common to get such defensive reactions.  And some of the reasons behind those reactions.

Keep fighting the good fight.  God never meant for a female to be second-class in any way, shape, or form.  Let's not forget this.  Let's unlearn the idea that He did and learn the truth that He came to free us from that.

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