I think most single women who consider getting married one day take a mental note of the colors, décor, the bride’s gown, and what they would or wouldn’t like to repeat in their own ceremony. But I took out my phone and took notes when the officiating pastor seamlessly shifted from a commitment ceremony into a sermon on “The Four Ss to a Successful Marriage.” He identified the four as submission, servanthood, sacrifice, and sincere worship.
Normally when I hear the word “submission” in the context of the Christian wife’s duty in marriage, it doesn’t bother me. You read that correctly. I think most people who get riled up about submission in this context assume two things: 1) The husband-wife relationship will be adversarial (and will be that way constantly or frequently), and 2) The directive for a wife to submit to her husband is based on the view that women are inferior to men. I say, if you’re in constant disagreement with the person you want to marry, you shouldn’t marry that person. As for number two … Well, that’s why “submission” usually doesn’t bother me.
These days, last Saturday included, most—certainly not all, but most—preachers and teachers are quick to tell you that God created women equal to men. Evidence: “Helper,” “help meet,” or “helper meet,” the words to describe what Adam couldn’t find when he looked among the creatures God had created for a suitable partner, indicates the two need each other. Eve was made from Adam’s side, not his head or foot, which would have indicated she was above him or to be stomped on.
I’ve also heard many preachers, teachers, and lay people liken a wife’s submission to her husband as her submitting to Christ, since the husband is under Christ’s lordship and is expected to follow him. So usually, I don’t have a problem with the word “submission.”
But Saturday, it rubbed me the wrong way, like a mean sibling poking me throughout the service and acting like an angel when mom turns around to ask what the problem is. I guess it’s because no matter how we (re-)translate Genesis and Paul’s epistles to apply them to the present day, I can’t help but notice how crappy some biblical texts allow women to be treated, and I can’t help but continue to wonder why this is so.
See, I’ve started to think someone, in some translation of the bible at some point, did hold the opinion that women are inferior to men, and whether we meant to or not, we believers have perpetuated it and justified it through scripture. (When I read things like this, I want to run away to a seminary for two years and study feminist theology.)
Of course, I also know I’m really stubborn and like things my way.
Eventually, I stopped squirming. The officiating pastor Saturday said the bible especially calls the husband to lead the way in sacrificial living, and I think the recognition that giving up the ability to have things your way will be just as much his role as it is hers put me back at ease. But I believe it takes a firm stance that the sexes are equal before you can draw that point out of the Bible. And maybe it’s the election season affecting me, but I don’t know if enough men who consider the Bible 100 percent true also believe in an egalitarian society.