John Piper, Spousal Abuse, and Empowerment

Dianna E. Anderson deconstructs a recent clarification John Piper made on his blog to a response he gave during a Q&A a little over two years ago in response to a question about how women should respond to spousal abuse. This was Piper’s original statement:

Part of that answer’s clearly going to depend on what kind of abuse we’re dealing with here … .

If this man, for example, is calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly—group sex, or something really weird, bizarre, harmful, that clearly would be sin. Then the way she submits—and I really think this is possible, it’s kind of paradoxical [sic]. She’s not going to go there. I’m saying no, she’s not going to do what Jesus would disapprove [sic], even though the husband is asking her to do it.

She’s going to say, however, something like, “Honey, I want so much to follow you as my leader. I think God calls me to do that, and I would love to do that. It would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership.” And so—then she would say—“But if you would ask me to do this, require this of me, then I can’t—I can’t go there.”

Now that’s one kind of situation. Just a word on the other kind. If it’s not requiring her to sin, but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.

First of all, I think it’s kind of telling that Piper spends nearly his entire response on a situation that, of the two he mentions, is the one far less likely to actually occur, and I further think that choosing “group sex” as his example is weird to say the least. Secondly, while John Piper refers to his beliefs about marriage as “complementarian”, this statement sounds like straight-up patriarchy to me. The husband is the boss, and the wife is to do whatever he says unless Jesus pulls rank on him.

But we’re really here to talk about his clarification. I recommend reading it, then jumping into Dianna’s thorough analysis and response. My only comment is that I can’t believe we have to have this long a conversation about whether a woman is allowed to take action against an abuser.

Even the Dogs Eat the Crumbs

Another great post from Kristen of Wordgazer’s Words, this time about Jesus’ interaction with the Syro-Phoenician woman who begged him to heal her demon-possessed daughter:

For years I didn’t know what to think of this story. It looked like Jesus was first ignoring, and then insulting, a poor, desperate woman—for no other reason than that she was a Gentile. It looked like she obtained healing for her daughter only after submitting to humiliation by agreeing that she and her people were little more than “dogs.” If Jesus is really the compassionate Savior of all mankind, how could He be so racist and cruel?

After doing her homework, she proceeds to unwrap the story and give us all the gift of falling in love with Jesus and the Bible (again).

Jesus Was Otherwise Engaged

Springboarding from the recent discovery of an ancient text referring to Jesus’ “wife”, John Ortberg proposes that we (including we in the Church) have still not caught up to Jesus with regard to his progressive stance toward women.

Via Rachel Held Evans.

I Would Only Follow a God Who Was Tempted

Propounds the theory that Jesus was actually tempted by a hallucination of Satan—in other words, his own food- and water-deprived brain. Before anyone flips out:

Are you saying this wasn’t real? No. The temptation that Jesus experienced was definitely real. Are you saying the bible isn’t true? No. I definitely believe the bible—I’m just trying to figure out what Matthew meant here, based on what else I know about God and temptation and what makes sense.

I don’t know that I agree, but I appreciate people who bring their imaginations with them when then they talk about the Bible.

Jesus Already Has a Wife

Or a wife-to-be, at any rate. Eleanor Barkhorn reminds us why the discovery of an ancient Coptic document that quotes Jesus talking about his wife doesn’t tell us anything:

If Christ is the groom, then who is his bride? The Gospels don’t really answer that question, but the rest of the New Testament does. And the answer probably doesn’t offer much help to people hoping Jesus’ marital status could shift the debates over women in ministry or the definition of marriage.

Confessions of an Accidental Feminist

I didn’t learn to be a feminist from Margaret Atwood or Simone de Beavoir. I learned to be a feminist from Jesus.

Rachel Held Evans contrasts her experience of discrimination inside the church with the implicit feminism of the New Testament.

Russian Orthodox Church Forgives Pussy Riot

”The church has been sometimes accused of not forgiving them,” the bearded and bespectacled cleric said. “We did forgive them from the very start. But such actions should be cut short by society and authorities.”

Just the way Jesus would have said it.

Via Jezebel

♀ Jesus & Venus & Paul Ryan


Since the announcement of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s choice for vice-presidential candidate, feminist websites have spewed considerable vitriol in Ryan’s direction, potraying him as anti-woman, anti-poor/pro-rich, anti-environment, and anti-immigrant.

All these things may be true. I have no idea.

The evidence offered is weak, though. I’ll give two examples.

On Monday, Feministing reported the announcement of Romney’s pick by listing reasons “Why Paul Ryan is bad news for women (and everyone else). Among them:

He voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.[1] This isn’t a controversial issue, y’all. It simply protects women from being denied equal pay for equal work. I think we can all agree this is a no-brainer. (Except Paul Ryan.)

Then, earlier today, The Daily Beast covered Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a lobby advocating for the poor:

[Ryan] proposes reducing the federal budget deficit through substantial cuts in spending, which Sister Simone believes would hit low-income people hard. “In order to do what he says he is going to do, it takes drastic cuts,” she says, adding that Ryan does not generally go into detail about the specific programs for the poor that would be affected. “He’s trying to avoid enumerating them,” she says. “The truth is, there’s a shift of money to the top—tax cuts for the wealthy.” (Via Jezebel)

The clear intent of much of this coverage is to imply that Ryan wants women to receive discriminatory pay and poor people to continue suffering. Lest you think this exaggeration, the Feministing article precedes its list with this statement:

Paul Ryan is a potential Veep who has no interest except to disenfranchise most women — and basically everyone else except the super wealthy — in pretty astounding ways.

Now, to clarify: I will not be voting for Mitt Romney, so I don’t have to care whether Paul Ryan’s views align with my own. From the little I know of Ryan’s budget it seems at least somewhat misguided, and in his position I probably would have voted for the Ledbetter Act, but I object to the increasing tendency, even among journalists, to equate disagreement about methodology with hatred for a cause.

I’m a libertarian, and therefore not much of a fan of either major party; I can find something to disagree with about nearly everything done by our current Congress and President. I attribute no ill motives to our politicians, though. By and large, I think they are probably patriotic, well-motivated individuals who want the best for our country but disagree about the right way to achieve their mostly-laudable goals. Lacking evidence to the contrary, I’m going to assume that Paul Ryan voted against the Ledbetter Act because he thought it outside the scope of the federal government’s powers and drafted his budget proposal using principles he thought would secure the greatest properity possible for everyone. Anyone may think him incorrect, but only the small-minded assume that those who disagree with them about the best way to govern a country are selfish, hateful, or evil.

With regard to many core feminist issues I find myself in a difficult position, caught between my human, civil, and political ideals. I want employers to treat women and men equally, but I am unwilling to legislate a quota for female executives. I think women should be able to easily access contraception so they have control over their own fertility, but I don’t like federally-funded social services, even the ones that provide free birth control. Even on more peripheral issues that most feminists care about I don’t fit in. For example, I want immigrating to the United States to be easy and therefore believe we need immigration policy reform, but because I also believe in the rule of law I have no problem with deporting people who didn’t follow the correct procedure. I also opposed the Affordable Care Act, partly because I believe that everyone would be better off if we went in the direction of less regulation, not more, but also because I don’t believe health care is a basic human right the government should provide, no matter what Jesus said.

And now we circle back around to Sister Simone. Despite her contention that Ryan’s budget doesn’t fit with Catholic principles, Jesus has nothing to say about how to govern a country. He lived and spoke in a period of extensive disenfranchisement, so his audience had no paradigm for representative government. Many Christians believe that if Jesus were alive today he would, for example, tell us to enact universal health care because he cared about the fate of the poor. But Jesus was non-political, and his sermons were delivered to individuals, not legislators. Personally, I believe that even if he were walking the earth today Jesus would be almost totally uninterested in the business of running our country, preferring to spend his energy and limited resources directly on people.

For this reason, the best way our faith can inform our governance is by saying that we should exercise wisdom in everything we do. And the tricky thing about that is: everyone’s version of wisdom looks different.

  1. The Act clarifies that the statute of limitations for equal-pay discrimination lawsuits resets with each discriminatory paycheck. (Wikipedia)  ↩

The Purity Culture and “Lust”

Libby Anne takes on the Christian conflation of instinctive sexual attraction with the kind of lust Jesus warned us about:

I think this creates a problem, though. You see, the more time you spend trying not to think about something, the more you end up thinking about it. Here, let me give you an example: Don’t think about purple elephants. You hear that? Don’t think about purple elephants. Now what are you thinking about? Purple elephants.

I like the idea of not demonizing sexual feelings, but its nonsense to say you can’t get your brain to think about something else. “Don’t think about elephants” only forces you to think about elephants for a second or two.

Let me give you my own example: Therapeutic Crisis Intervention advocates the use of distraction/redirection to support young people in crisis. I have co-workers who use this technique nearly every day. If a bunch of delinquent boys can ignore their emotions even when they’re just a step or two away from violence, I’m guessing the rest of us can manage it, too.

I’m currently thinking through my views on sexual attraction, lust, and infidelity, so I don’t know that I disagree with Libby Anne on this issue. But lets not surrender our agency just to prove the fundies wrong.