TEXAS FAITH: In faith and gender politics, what does submission mean — as in, submissive spouse?
When Sarah Palin ran for vice president, as Hillary Clinton considers a race for president and with Wendy Davis actively engaged in a bid for governor, one aspect of that culture war is what it means in religious terms to be submissive – most notably, a submissive wife. A recent USA Today article notes the subject is popping up these days, preached from the pulpit, pontificated about in a spate of new book releases and prominent on the agenda of next month’s Southern Baptist leadership summit. “All seek to answer the question of whether wives are 100 percent equal partners or whether ‘biblical womanhood’ means a God-given role of supporting their husbands — and, in turn, knowing their husbands are honor-bound to die for them, if necessary.”
Submission in matters of faith and gender politics (Artwork/Todd Slater)
Biblical references to husbands leading their households have long invited interpretations that sound to many people a lot like inferiority. Where’s the equality in submission? And yet Cynthia Rigby of the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and a member of the Texas Faith panel noted in the USA Today story, the Scriptures came out a world where women couldn’t own property and could be divorced by their husbands saying the word three times. In that world, holding wives up as “holy and without blemish” was a radical idea, she said. In her upcoming book, “Shaping Our Faith: A Christian Feminist Theology,” Rigby explores the idea biblical submission and its implications in the wider public debate.
With gender politics is so much part of our public debate, how do we interpret the idea of submission? What does submission in a religious, political and modern cultural sense really mean?
AMY MARTIN, Director Emeritus of Earth Rhythms and writer/editor Moonlady News
The old joke goes like this: “And God promised man that good and obedient wives would be found in all four corners of the earth. Then God made the world round. And God laughed and laughed and laughed.”
I like that God! When God is cast as a man, as it is in Christianity, it’s too tempting for man to think he is a God. A myriad of serious abuses against women arise from this pernicious assumption, sometimes held so deep it is unconscious.
In Taoism, it is illogical to hold rigid, polarized definitions of how men and women should be. The yin-yang symbol shows the male and female of all things to be in equality. The male/yang side has a dot of yin and the female/yin side contains a dot of yang. The line dividing them is flexible and curved.
There is but one submission: to God, to Tao, to the divine force that is so unimaginably immense that gender is meaningless. In Taoism, this submission — described as living in accordance with Teh, the universal laws of nature — is the faith’s very bedrock.
I must point out that this even being a matter of discussion is why the spiritual-not-religious is the fastest growing segment of faith and why millennials are leaving the church in droves.