February 12, 2016

Immediate Relationship

"The question may be raised, 'Does not S. Paul's language deprive the woman of her immediate relation to the Lord?' It no more does so than the difference of function between the clergy and laity deprives the laity of their immediate relation to Him. The relation of Christian to Christ does not stand apart from the other relations, in which the Christian finds himself. It interpenetrates and consecrates them all." 

This section of the screenshot from yesterday jumped out at me. First we have to remember that this is from a hundred year old book. It's written by an Anglican scholar being used to support a Protestant argument about male headship centuries before the concept of complementarianism was written down. It defaults to using masculine pronouns to describe humanity in general because that's what was acceptable way back then.

When I first read about Jesus' death and then about the veil being torn in two in the temple - I thought it an odd scene change. All the action is on the cross, yet for a moment the most important thing happens in the temple - the curtain that separated people from God had lost it's power. When I hear about headship, shepherding, spiritual covering, etc. it seems to me that some element or other takes the place of that curtain, restoring the separation between a believer and their God by going through another party.

When the veil was intact, it was necessary for the believers to go through the priests and high priests to get to God. Now the separation is removed, then nothing is supposed to stand in our way. When the clergy act as the filter for God, then that separation is restored. Not only that, but for women, they get two layers of separation between God because they are subordinate to men:
God > Clergy > Laity (Men > Women)  
Can you imagine if the Clergy Headship was the norm for all of Christianity? What would it be like if men had to submit themselves unto the decision-making power of the clergy? What would spirituality be like if it was impossible for men to have a direct line to God, but rather had to go through the hierarchy of clergy to attain spiritual insight? 

Coming out of the Protestant tradition, I learned that the reformers believed that many positions within the clergy were unbiblical. Having affirmed the priesthood of all believers, they believed that just as priests themselves didn't have to go through anybody to get to God, all believers had a direct connection to God. Positions within the church such as Pastor and Elder were more functionally administrative than anything else. They believed:
God > People  
Granted, in their day and age the subordination of women to men was a fact of life, women held second class status, as did their saves and other dependents. The point is, they saw that there were problems that would appear when somebody stood between us and God. Those problems still exist. Sometimes there a bad priest or a bad elder or a bad deacon or a bad husband/father who is more inclined to sin than others. Their actions often put a stumbling block in the spiritual lives of those who are dependent upon them - the movie Spotlight shows one prominent example. The Laity is equally capable of making the same mistakes of the Clergy in that regard.

God > Church Leadership (which is almost entirely Male) > Men > Women & Children 
It's hard not to be cynical about this arrangement when you've read as many accounts as I have from victims of pedophiles and/or domestic violence. Far too often, they are traumatized by those who are supposed to protect them. When this order breaks down, it's not guaranteed that the bad shepherd, husband, father, pastor, deacon, elder, etc. will be held accountable. After all, each man is only to protect his own household from any outside threat, there's not really a verse that says that each man must also protect his household from his sinful inclinations. I do find it hard to be charitable on this score - that maybe five percent or ten percent of guys are the bad guys and everybody else gets it perfectly. How can one claim to get it perfectly while refusing to stand up for the rights of the oppressed just because they aren't his own? 

There's a flaw in the perfect God-ordered design. We saw it in the shepherding/discipling movement where the individuals in leadership could not be questioned or doubted but must always be obeyed. Soon a big teaching was that all Sheep could not make any major life decisions without consulting their shepherds. The idea was that accountability would improve morality and decrease sinfulness. Teachings centered on authority, submission, and discipleship. Since it was believed that everyone was a Sheep under the care of a Shepherd, this created a scenario where believers had two masters - a powerful human master who could not be questioned and their Lord Jesus who wasn't very powerful. Soon it was taught that it was the Godly thing to obey one's Shepherd even if it meant disobeying the Lord. This opened the door to the potential for abuse. It was noted that some Shepherd demanded tithes from their Sheep. Eventually the Shepherding Movement's true colors were revealed, countless stories of spiritual abuse began to be told. It's leaders disbanded; but the core teaching of authority and submission remained intact.

The very same flaw exists in the spiritual covering teachings - the one that emphasizes authority and submission. When the question is asked: Who do you obey, your covering or your Lord? The answer more often than not is that women must obey the men that cover them because this pleases the Lord, women may only disobey their covering when it means sinning against the Lord. Same two masters problem - the difference is that men only have the one. So we shouldn't be surprised to see the same abuses that existed in it's previous incarnation appear in it's latest incarnation as well. 

High accountability is a feature in some churches today - people are encouraged to submit themselves to their spiritual authorities in much the same way. The reasoning is that people like to be challenged, a low commitment church creates low commitment Christians who tend to sin, so a high commitment church theoretically creates highly committed Christians who are less likely to sin. So much emphasis is placed on submission and authority that we fail to see that we have made following God an idol in and of itself and fail to just go directly to God.

Remember the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16? Jesus concluded: 

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

Jesus wasn't only talking about money as if it was the only other possible master that humanity could create that they could choose over God. We've seen how authority in and of itself can become another master. When we highly value authority, it can become something that God hates to see because it becomes more important. Like when we think it's more important to submit to our shepherd than it is to serve our Lord, or more important to submit to our husbands (for married women) or our fathers (for single women) than it is to serve our Lord. 

I think the original quote is wrong, this teaching deprives women from their direct relation to the Lord. The laity only has to submit itself to the clergy one day in seven, the women must always submit herself each and every day of the week. She has two masters, except for Sunday when she has three. A man has only one master six days out of seven. Only on Sundays does he have two and even then, it's only for an hour or so.

Have you detected this flaw yet? Is it not the idea that authority and submission are the essence of God's relationship to himself in the Trinity? The Father has no master as he is the authority. The Son is in submission to his master which is the father and the Son is the master of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in submission to both the father and the son, but the Father has more authority than the Son. This Submission of the Son to the Father is eternal, and it serves as the foundation for the submission of women to the authority of men. Same DNA - so it's a matter of time before the flawed genetics begin to poison and disease every relationship built upon authority and submission; it's the other master that draws us away from God by dressing itself up as a conduit to God through it.