The Bible, Marriage, and Well-Meaning People

Yes, I have been gone a while from this blog. I know your heart pines for my words. Life is life.

Anyway, In my rummaging around links I find here and there, I came across a link to a Huffpost Religion article by someone named Greg Carey. Under his byline, it says he is a professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary. I’m sure he is very smart and highly educated. Please do not mistake what I am about to say as a criticism of his intelligence or education. Much of what he has to say in the article certainly has merit. But there is a specific comment he makes with which I take issue.

One other passage frequently surfaces in weddings but rarely in mainline Protestant churches, the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodists and United Church of Christ congregations that invite me to speak. Ephesians 5:22-33 commands wives to obey their husbands and husbands to love their wives. Conservative Christians may try to explain away the offense of this passage, but there’s no escaping its ugly reality. Ephesians calls wives to submit to their husbands just as children must obey their parents and slaves must obey their masters. See the larger context, Ephesians 5:21-6:9.

The “offence of this passage”, “it’s ugly reality.” I’m more offended by those kind of comments than by the passage. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Carey says “Ephesians calls wives to submit to their husbands just as children must obey their parents and slaves must obey their masters.” Ephesians makes no such direct comparison. At no point does Ephesians say women should obey in the manner of children or slaves. The comparison is made by Carey (and others) but not by Paul. Paul the Apostle, the author of Ephesians, is talking about relationships between people. The passage to which Carey makes reference is basically the second half of a longer passage in which Paul is talking about how believers ought to behave as they interact with other believers. I am sure it is offence to many modern eyes to see someone talk about how slaves should behave, but Paul was addressing the nature of the society in which he and the members of the church at Ephesus lived, not the society of a 21st century USA.

Which brings me back to the “offence” of Paul telling wives to obey their husbands and husbands to love their wives. It’s not an offence unless you are offended by the idea of Paul writing to the audience of his time. If you are, then you should probably also never read things like King Solomon’s Mines or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. As someone I used to know liked to say, “If you’re offended, it’s because you’re offendable.” In other words, sometimes your offence is no one’s fault but your own. I suggest this is the case with Mr.Carey and his reading of Ephesians.

And just what the heckity darn is ugly about saying that husbands should love their wives as Christ had loved all of us? Paul also says husbands should love wives as the husbands love themselves. As a husband nourishes and cherishes himself, he should do the same for his wife. How is that ugly? Carey does not say. 

Oh I know. He meant the part about wives obeying their husbands. Frankly, more women ought to try obeying and respecting their husbands. And no, I did not say women should stop thinking for themselves or remain in abusive relationships. Just because you can conflate these things does not mean you should.

One Response to “The Bible, Marriage, and Well-Meaning People”

  1. Hahahah.. Damm.. great one 😉

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