Gospel Coalition, Rachel Held Evans and the Missionary Position

July 21, 2012 at 9:18 am 5 comments

He asked me to give a toast at the wedding. While I wasn’t the one who introduced them, I got to play a big part in their early dating days. After all, they were young adult leaders in a youth ministry I was leading for a year. I got to see their love bloom and grow up close and personal, and I was often asked to give advice in the midst of some of the struggles that are part of parcel of learning to love. I’m excited to celebrate with them at their wedding today.

Grandpa Simpson: “In my day, women didn’t make a sound!”

I haven’t given a toast in a long time and weddings have changed quite a bit since I got married 20 years ago. Everybody wants to do something different. So, I asked a few more questions about what was expected of me. We’ve had our share of conversations about sex, so, I warned, “Maybe I’ll make a toast to your sex life in explicit detail…” He responded, “may we not be limited to the missionary position…” He always knows how to make me laugh.

I couldn’t help thinking about this as I interacted with readers on the Rachel Held Evans blog as Rachel responded to Jared Wilson’s blog which included talk about sex and submission (the original blog post has since been taken down as our friend Scot McKnight and others requested).

Why do we call sexual intercourse with the man on top and the woman on bottom the missionary position?

I’ve done some writing on this blog about the missional church and the shift from a Christendom-conquering-colonizing view of mission to a more relational-incarnational view of mission. I’ve also written on how important our use of language is in effecting cultural change.

One of the most disturbing parts of Jared Wilson’s post quoting Doug Wilson’s Fidelity is the use of the following description of sex as: A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

Rachel Held Evans was one of the loudest voices in response. After I read her response, I wondered if my friend Jim Henderson had been talking with her.

One of Jim’s favorite maxims is, “It’s not about sex, it’s about power.”  He writes in his latest book, The Resignation of Eve, “People who have power often don’t think about it, but people who don’t have power think about it all the time.”  And as we’re told from the media, men think about sex all the time. And they are often the ones with the power. So, we should not be surprised when men post such things and fail to realize how powerful their words are – and how powerfully they may hurt others.

I wonder, what if we decided to reform our thinking around sex in the relational-incarnational ways that we are changing our thinking around mission? No more conquering and colonizing. But relating to one another in ways that seek understanding and empower one another to be fully human.

There has been so much violence done in the name of mission and submission over the years when mission was primarily viewed in the conquering and colonizing way. Is it any wonder that when we use such language in relation to sexual intercourse that those being conquered and colonized would feel violated? Jesus rejected the conquering and colonizing structures of his day when he refused to be the King in the way the people wanted him to be king. A Jesus kind of power is not a power over, but a giving up and giving away kind of power.

It’s not about sex. It’s about power.

I hope we can learn together how to better steward our power even in the most intimate of spaces – the marriage bed.


I’m continuing last week’s book offerings for my summer #freebookgiveaway. Sign up to get monthly email updates delivered straight to your inbox and you’ll be entered in the weekly drawing for free books when you confirm.

This week’s choices are:


This week’s choices are:

The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam's Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church's Backbone? by Jim Henderson The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church’s Backbone? by Jim Henderson


Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home by Jonalyn Grace Fincher Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home by Jonalyn Grace Fincher


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Giving Up on Organized Religion?

5 Comments

  • 1. Rebecca Trotter  |  July 21, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Great post. I wrote something ages ago asking why God allowed verses which could so easily be used to justify seeing women as less-than to be written. Part of my conclusion was:

    “For women, they are a test of faith. Do we know God’s love enough to refuse to accept it when people shove verses in our faces which seem to clearly indicate disdain or hatred of women? Will we turn to Him and wait on His answers, trusting that His love for us is pure and true? If so we will be rewarded.

    “For men, it is a challenge of character. Will you eagerly reach for something which seems to legitimize a corrupted heart’s desire to be above another? Will you listen compassionately when a woman shares the hurt these verses cause her or will you condemn her for not accepting ‘God’s ways’ and her place in creation? These sort of verses make the substance of a man’s heart known.”

    God’s about love, not power. Exactly.

    • 2. Elizabeth Chapin  |  July 23, 2012 at 10:20 am

      Rebecca, great thoughts. Especially about asking men to listen compassionately. So hard. My husband and I try to use humor to help us get over some of the impasses of our mutual cluelessness about how the other perceives such things. The hidden scripts of patriarchy and privilege can stay hidden beneath the surface until unearthed by the power of the Holy Spirit. If I try to unearth those things in others, it often get’s messier than it needs to be. God’s love is pure and true and perfect – on that one thing we can depend.

  • […] Gospel Coalition, Rachel Held Evans and The Missionary Position Those of you who hang out around the Christian blogosphere could hardly help but catch wind of a real doozy of a dust-up between the complimentarians and the egalitarians. Some idiot man decided to give his opinion of the 50 Shades of Grey phenomena* by saying that rape and BDSM are the expected outcome of not allowing for the natural order of things – men in charge, women submitting – to occur as they were meant to. No I’m not making that up or exaggerating. He really said that. His claim was that when this natural ordering was denied, frustrated people will seek to act out their desires through more deviant means. Rachel Held Evans offered a forceful rebuttal, an argument ensued, apologies had to be issued, particularly offensive posts were removed, Ms. Evans graciously accepted said apologies, so on and so forth. I personally avoided the whole thing since I don’t really have much sway or anything unique to add and I can have a hard time being nice in the middle of such conflicts. But, I did read Elizabeth Chapin’s wonderful response to the issue and think that if you go read it, you will know all you need to know about the whole deal. The take away: sex and power should not be colliding in God’s economy. […]

    • 4. Elizabeth Chapin  |  July 23, 2012 at 10:20 am

      Thanks for the bloggy linky goodness!

  • 5. Elizabeth Chapin  |  July 23, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Reblogged this on Elizabeth Chapin ~ ChapinChick.

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