Tonight in her speech at the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton said,
My mother was born before women could vote. My daughter got to vote for her mother for president. This is the story of America.
While I didn’t support Hillary in the primary, I appreciated her speech tonight, and the quote above led me to write a bit about the latest skirmish in my quest to reconcile, or maybe a better term for it is “defend” my own personal beliefs with some of the teachings of the Bible.
Because there’s no arguing that women have come a long way. Though Hillary lost the nomination to a male opponent, her run for president will go far in paving the way for the woman who will eventually become the first female president of the United States. And it will happen. Likely, in my own lifetime and certainly in my daughters’ lifetimes.
What hasn’t come a long way is many Christians’ interpretation of the Biblical scripture regarding the relationship between a husband and a wife. In particular, our Sunday School class is studying 1st Peter. Last Sunday’s reading included the following from Chapter 3 verses 1-7:
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without talk by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Now, while my church is not as conservative as many here in Suburbia, the discussion on this passage still led to varying opinions. Or at least my opinion varied from that of several others…notably all men. Most of the other women were conspicuously silent, though a couple of the other more outspoken class members were absent, as was Adventure Guy.
I pointed out that I found it interesting to note that immediately prior to this passage, in 1st Peter 2:18, slaves are called to be submissive to their masters.
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.
It’s not often that passage gets quoted these days, though it was certainly used to justify slavery prior to the Civil War. And yet, I’ve heard multiple sermons on the passage regarding wives’ submission to their husbands. This time around, in a more casual setting, I shared with the class my opinion that this passage merely reflected women’s position in society at the time the Bible was written. Just as it was considered the norm for slaves to obey their masters, and slavery was not questioned, it was not questioned as to a woman’s position relative to her husband.
Okay, okay. I’ll admit I also shared my annoyance that no one seems to ever point out the preceding slavery passage. And then, one of the men asked me, “So, you don’t see Adventure Guy as the head of your household?”
The gauntlet was down. Fortunately, I feel comfortable enough with my classmates to answer truthfully. I told him that I saw Adventure Guy and myself as partners in the leadership of our family. That we worked together, each one of us maximizing our own strengths and coming to consensus when we disagree (sometimes rather loud consensus, but consensus nonetheless).
The confused silence told me that I’d likely dumbfounded my friend. He just couldn’t fathom a woman feeling the way I did, or likely a husband who’d be okay with that feeling. Fortunately, Adventure Guy–absent though he was at this crucial moment–agrees with me. His response when I told him about the conversation? “Well, what exactly is it I’m ‘giving up’ by not being the ‘Head Of The Household’?”
That didn’t stop Adventure Guy from telling another man in our class who emailed him about an upcoming event that he wasn’t sure he’d be up for going because he was trying to overcome his disappointment and depression over having learned he wasn’t in charge.
At least he has a sense of humor about it. I can’t wait until next week when we go to class together. It likely will be an interesting experience. But just to make Adventure Guy feel better, I’ll still let him list himself as “head of household” on our taxes. I’m sure that will make all the difference!