What was your mother? A lioness! Among lions she crouched; in the midst of young lions she reared her cubs. ~Ezekiel 19:2
When I was in junior high, Helen Reddy’s song, “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” was very popular. It played over and over on the radio, and I sang along in my 13-year-old voice. I really didn’t know what it was about, but it was a catchy tune, and I was a “woman,” so I roared. I can still hear the tune in my head as I type the title.
Later, as a loyal anti-feminist and promoter of all things Patriarchy, I remembered singing that song, and I was ashamed. My radar was now up for anything that sounded remotely feminist. I colored inside the lines with my “fiercely submissive” views, and the only two crayons I had were black and white.
I’m taking a class in group counseling for my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy (MFT). I’ve learned many helpful things about group dynamics, but there is one concept that has hit home, literally. I wish I had realized this near the beginning of my mothering career, rather than near the end of it. This: When there is a conflict in the group, or a pushback against the leader’s position, don’t squash it! There is a purpose for that conflict, and it needs to be explored and understood, for the sake of the cohesiveness of the group. If you squash–or ignore–all conflict and dissent, it WILL come back to bite you.
When Helen belted out her song (can’t get those words out of my head now!), and many women sang along, many men rolled their eyes and reacted to the music with a dismissive epithet: “Feminists!” Yes, it was part of the feminist movement, with all the baggage that implied at the time–Gloria Steinem and her bicycle-riding fish and bra-burning demonstrations and Hanoi Jane. But the voices got louder, and women in the church began to sing along. In order to shut them up, so-called theologians came up with a new/old theology to put women in their place: Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS), aka Eternal Functional Submission (EFS) or Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission (ERAS). Don’t let your eyes glaze over yet. This has a point.
Just as conflict has a purpose in a counseling group, or a family, it also has a purpose in the culture and in the church. Instead of ignoring Helen Reddy and her ilk by rolling eyes or using ad hominem attacks, the church should ask: What is the reason for this movement? Are there lessons we need to learn from this? That is not the same as agreeing with it.
Fearful cries of “Unclean, unclean!” pierce the air and drown out the discussions that need to happen. Theological games of whack-a-mole begin, as uppity women venture out to ask some questions that MUST be addressed for the group’s integrity and cohesion. And theological Towers of Babel are constructed by the Grudems, the Wares, and the Pipers playing their flutes to lead the “children” into the safety of the edifice they have constructed. The other music is too discordant for their sensitive ears.
The dispersion has begun.
There are other colors in the crayon box than just black and white. In other words, our choices are not A) Radical feminism or B) Patriarchy/Hierarchical Complementarianism (P/HC). Important questions that have been ignored or mocked are finally getting some attention, thanks to a modern-day Jael, Aimee Byrd, whose platform started the ball rolling, and it is gathering moss. Some gentlemen doth protest too much in response, but many are just ignoring her and the other women who have skin in this game. They haven’t learned the lesson that those tactics do not help the group. That’s the way to fragment the group, not to preserve and strengthen it.
The big issue at stake in this discussion is the doctrine of the Trinity, which some of us thought was hammered out between Athanasius and Arius and pinned down by the Nicene Creed. Those initials I mentioned above, however, are the new but not improved version of that same debate, and it has been given the CBMW seal of approval as their luminaries have promoted it in so-called theologically conservative circles in order to keep women in their place. Aimee has her tent peg in hand, and the guys in this battle are understandably nervous about coming near her tent. She asks:
Why do I get emails from a few, privately encouraging me to speak out while they remain publicly silent? Is it complementarian to encourage a woman to take the hits? Is it?
Good question. I guess the answer is that their rigid views of masculine and feminine don’t hold water if they have to hide behind her skirts. Read the link I have given to her latest post (third time’s the charm!) to see what’s at stake (pun intended) for Christian women who love God’s Word.
I used to be a female Ponce de Léon, looking for the magical Fountain of Perfect Marriage, and I thought I discovered it with the system of Patriarchy, aka Hierarchical Complementarianism (P/HC). What I discovered, though, was just a pool of brackish water. Don’t drink it. It’s not as easy as finding the perfect formula. It’s a lot of hard work to deal with conflict–in marriages, in churches, in culture, but that work is the only way to grow. There are no shortcuts.
So pay attention to the uncomfortable voices in the group. They are there for a reason.