Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Mister Jensen strikes again

As a Christian ( a liberal styled one ) I spend some time thinking about how to respond to the teachings of the church in the context of the society I live in. I live with some fear of negatively representing my faith and some discomfort about the general image portrayed by the churches. The Jesus I understand stood for empowerment, equality, tolerance, responsibility and LOVE, 
he was a radical, unapologetically anti-fundamentalist in the context of His time so in light of all of that I am appalled, enraged and disgusted that the Anglican diocese of Sydney, under the leadership of archbishop Peter Jensen is yet again wandering the path of fundamentalism and proposing an addition to the marriage vows:

 ''Will you honour and submit to him, as the church submits to Christ?'' and for her to pledge ''to love and submit'' to her husband."

What on earth do they think they are doing????

The bishop thinks that the word "submit" is more nuanced and responsive than the old "obey" which was made optional nearly 100 years ago in 1928. But is it? really? Is "submit" more gentle or acceptable than "obey"?
"Obey" implies doing what one is told, regardless of but maintaining, personal opinion, "submit" would almost imply that there is no room for personal opinion.

In the interests of full disclosure, fairness etc the philosophy is defined clearly as a woman  submitting to a husband who loves her sacrificially and I believe that in these circumstances a very considered and intelligently managed version of submission might work. The thing is, if the submission is intelligent and managed and dependent on circumstance there are so many factors to consider that it barely even qualifies as submission, in which case it is moot and submission, as a principle, is too broad a brush stroke, too general, too unintelligent, too unexamined to be in the marriage vows.

Once we talk of submission we forget that the submission depends on a husband who is wise, sacrificial and has the best interests of his wife and family at heart. It doesn't allow for the wife to have a clearer view on any given issue, it doesn't allow for the husband to be having a bad day or generally out of his depth or dumb and it certainly doesn't allow for the fact that with many, many people the word submit is all they will hear, paving the way for women to be subjugated, authorising men to subjugate and yet again showing the world outside the church that we are backward, fundamentalist, unthinking, misogynistic and irrelevant.

The words in the vow ONLY talk of submission and I am mad. There could be hundreds, thousands even, of people like me: thoughtful self examining Christians doing their darnedest to reflect the beauty of the real Christian message and it is all overshadowed by one synod, one bishop, one archbishop who are so deeply rooted in their (possibly erroneous) theology that they cannot see the wood for the trees and consequently the whole church suffers, the public once again see an institution full of naive, irrelevant, alienating do-gooders and we open the door for religiously sanctioned control and domination of women in marriage.

I don't think Jesus would be signing up for this version of marriage, not for a second.