Tag Archives: spirituality

Submission and Sensibility (with apologies to Jane Austen)

I recently stumbled across and article (or blog, can’t really remember) arguing that κεφαλὴ, translated as “head” in most Bibles, is better translated as “source” in Ephesians 5:22–33. I had vague understanding of this argument so I read the article in more detail and then went to look at the associated verses myself. At the end of my study, I came to the following conclusion: who cares?

Paul opens Chapter 5 with the admonition to live in holiness (Ephesians 5:1–5), then reminds the reader not to participate in the “deeds of darkness” (Ephesians 5:6–14). Immediately, he calls his readers to submit to one another as a wise way of living (Ephesians 5:15–21). In this context, Paul gives his (near-infamous) instruction for wives to submit to your husbands as unto the lord (22). As many will (and should) point out, the Greek sentence doesn’t have submit in that verse; the word submit appears in the previous verse (21) in the command to “submit to one another.” In a somewhat literal translation, the verse reads, “wives, to your own husbands as to the Lord.” He then goes on the the husband is head/source as Christ is head/source.

Some want to soften the submission aspect by clinging to the source translation, while others want to reinforce male authority by emphasizing headship. Firstly, it seems to me that, whatever the translation, Paul is using a metaphor here, and we should therefore avoid a wooden one-to-one analogy. Secondly, the head/source analogy comes as a clarification of “wives to your own husbands [submit]”, implying that regardless of what you may understand κεφαλὴ to mean, wives must still submit to their own husbands.

I wonder if Paul has the not-uncommon orgies in mind when he makes the qualifier in 5:22 (and as he clarifies later for husbands to love their wives). Consider: in a culture where a group orgy is a possible reality and where someone of his audience had likely participated in such an orgy, Paul commands them to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. I can see how he might see an immediate need to clarify.

Paul: “Okay, so before you take this too far, let me give you some more details: wives, submit to your own husbands. Just like Christ is the κεφαλὴ of the Church, so husbands are your κεφαλὴ. In the same way the church submits to Christ, wives, do the same to your husbands. You husbands, love your own wives just like you would love your own body. If you love your body, you love yourself, so take care of your body, just like Christ takes care of his church. By the way, do you see what I did there? Body of Christ/body of husband? See, I’m really talking about the church/Christ relationship.”

All I’m saying is that I can’t see how we can avoid the wives submitting to husbands part, but I would also point out in the same way that all Christians submit to one another, this is the way in which wives submit to their husbands. So if you’re going use this verse to say that husbands have the “final say” in marriage, then you also have to say that other Christians have the “final say” as well.

Please, lets have some sense as we continue to consider male and female within the church.

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Social Justice, Brain Development, and Christian Responsibility

She studies how poverty might change the brain – CNN.com.

Stumbled across this interesting article. It discusses how, Dr. Martha Farah, founder of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neuroscence and Society, examines the impact of poverty on brain development. In particular, she notes several issues:

  1. “Poor children don’t get as much exposure to language as their wealthier counterparts, research has found, and they tend to get more negative feedback. What they do hear is not as grammatically complex, with a narrower range of vocabulary.”
  2. “Stress is another huge factor in these disparities. Parents of low socioeconomic status have uncertainty about having basic needs met, dangerous neighborhoods, crowding and other factors, causing stress for children and their parents. Stressed parents are less patient and affectionate, further stressing their children, according to Farah.” On the surface, it should be plainly obvious that a stressed child will learn less. A child thinking about whether they will eat will not have the mental space to memorize facts or think beyond their immediate concern.

Granted, she has only begun her studies and so much of the article involves research hypotheses and conjecture. Also, the writer (as do I) resists the urge to say, “my environment made me do it,” and instead looks at the implications of poverty from a long-term standpoint. However, this reinforces the idea of privilege and the generational spiral of systemic discrimination. In plain English: poor and uneducated people make children who are poor and uneducated. This is a general principle, not a firm rule (I can think of at least one personal example of someone who has parents who barely graduated high school who themselves has a PhD).

It seems to me, however, that Christian responsibility demands that we care for the “least of these” by working to ensure the poor have not only access to a better way, but also the training and resources to sustain that better way as an expression of the gospel. Sidestepping the role of government in carrying this out, I assert that the role of Christians is to act as agents, advocates, champions, and support for helping children and families in dangerous and low-income neighborhoods. This doesn’t mean “hand-outs” (as in giving them stuff) or “hand-ups” (as in providing jobs). I think that Freire has it right when he advocates for cooperation and unity as a means to free the poor from the poverty cycle, as well as his idea that the “oppressed” must liberate themselves rather than waiting for the “oppressor” to liberate them. In that, I think the critical pedagogy advocates may be on to something.

Here’s the thing: Christianity (and especially evangelical Christianity) has to change this attitude of viewing the poor as the enemy, and obstacle, or a problem (as some of the political rhetoric frames it). Instead, we need to consider the poor as people who need to hear the gospel, and the manifestation and intersection of the gospel in this case has to do with their educational and economic situation. It’s time for the poor to experience the Kingdom of Heaven.

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Finding the Gospel in Surprising Places

“Finale B”, by Jonathan Larson. From the musical/movie RENT

There is no future, there is no past.

Thank God this moment’s not the last.

There’s only us
There’s only this.
Forget regret or
Life is yours to miss.

No other road, no other way;
No day but today.

Will I lose my dignity (I can’t control)?
Will someone care (my destiny)?
Will I wake tomorrow (I trust my soul)
From this nightmare (my only goal is just to be)?

Without you (there’s only now)
The hand gropes (there’s only here)
The ear hears (give in to love)
The pulse beats (or live in fear)
Life goes on (no other path)
But I’m gone (no other way)
‘Cause I die (no day but today)
Without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you.

No day but today.

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A Bedtime Blessing for my Son

Heavenly father,

Thank you for Luke’s life and ministry. I pray you would make him healthy and wise, and to continue to grow in wisdom and stature and to have favor with you and with other people. Grant us the wisdom to raise him up in the way he should go so that he would not depart from it when he is older. I pray you would prepare him for his future wife as you prepare him for her.

Establish a legacy of faith in him, and in his children, and in his children’s children—that they would come to faith early in life and live lives dedicated to you. Please bless those who bless him, and watch over his friends, family, and loved ones. Grant him restful slumber and peaceful dreams tonight, and keep him safe.

I ask this by the power of your spirit, and in the name of your son, Jesus.

Amen.

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