I have been following a bit of a “blogger war” on Twitter these past couple of days between Douglas Wilson and Rachel Held Evans (over a post written by Nate Sparks, in which Rachel retweeted). Let me start with this, I am on Rachel’s side, although I don’t agree with everything Rachel writes. I am on her side as a person, because I like her, and she has taken a beating for women like me who simply feel called to be leaders and preachers in the evangelical church.
With that said, there are things about Douglas Wilson I like too. Even though I stand with Rachel on the issue of gender justice in the Church, I like that Wilson responds to women on his blog. He may be uncouth about it sometimes, but at least he responds. This shows a level of respect in itself. I have written to and about many male complementarian figures in the Church, and Douglas Wilson is the only one who has taken the time to use his platform to respond.
In fact, the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, as well as one of their poster boys, Gavin Peacock, blocked me on Twitter. I am not a disrespectful writer, so I find this cowardly, to say the least.
With all of this said,
I would like to add my voice to this conversation between Nate Sparks, Rachel Held Evans, and Douglas Wilson and answer this question from my perspective:
Does Douglas Wilson teach that women who are unsubmissive to their fathers or husbands “deserve” to be raped?
But, before I answer that question, allow me to tell you a story.
When I was 18 years old, my fairly conservative preacher father took me out on a “daddy-daughter date.” I was getting ready to move from Pittsburgh, PA area, all the way to Dallas, TX to attend Bible college. I grew up with a very protective father in many aspects. I was a daredevil, so he always feared I was going to get hurt.
On this date of ours, dad basically told me it was time for him to stop telling me what to do and that I needed to start making my own decisions for my own life. He was pushing me out of the cushy nest and giving me permission to “unsubmit.” I knew he would catch me if I fell and come running if I needed him, but it was time for me to find my own voice and authority as an adult woman, without him.
In response to Rachel Held Evans, Wilson states
I began by saying that I am on the same team with Gospel Coalition complementarianism. I say that even though I don’t generally use the terminology of complementarianism because it seems to me too much of another -ism. As a friend said to me recently, why can’t we just call it common sense? When men are men, faithful women like it, and when women are women, faithful men like that (Source Below).
The issue with this blanket statement is that there is not one way to act like a faithful man and there is not one way to act like a faithful woman. We see throughout the Bible, men and women, who serve God faithfully based off their unique callings, gifts, and personalities.
Some men are warriors (as Douglas Wilson seems to believe all men should be), while other men are gentle servants in the Kingdom of God. Likewise, some women are gentle servants (as Douglas Wilson seems to believe all women should be), and some women are warriors, as Deborah and Jael were in the Old Testament.
It is OK for Douglas Wilson and others to have a “complementarian style” of marriage, but it is not OK to teach that complementarianism is the only way to honor God and to hijack “biblical manhood” and “biblical womanhood.” God does not think this small, and the Bible is a complex narrative, full of men and women who do not fit so called designed “biblical gender roles.”
At 18 years old, my dad empowered me and gave me wings to fly. As a result, I have become confident, sufficient and capable with or without a man. I enjoy being taken care of by my husband, but he also enjoys being taken care of by me. At the end of the day though, I know I could take care of myself if for some reason I lost my husband. I would not need to move back into my father’s home until I found a new husband.
The Bible never commands grown women to submit to their fathers until they find a mate, and fathers who teach their daughters to do this, are stunting their daughter’s growth, confidence and maturity.
Today, 51 percent of adult American women are living without a spouse (stat from book “Lime Green” by Jackie Roese) and must be self-sufficient. Many of these women would like to get married, but simply have not found a suitable partner. Some of these women do not desire marriage, and according the Apostle Paul Christian celibacy is a gift (1 Cor. 7:7).
It is important to note that single women were major financial contributors to the Apostle Paul’s ministry in the first century of the early church and some even hosted and led house churches (See my master’s thesis below).
Singleness is an honorable choice for both men and women and it is beyond silly to expect a 40 year old woman, who never got married (based on choice or not), to remain submitted to her father.
The reason Evans is concerned is due to this remark that Wilson wrote a while back,
But women who genuinely insist on ‘no masculine protection’ are really women who tacitly agree on the propriety of rape. Whenever someone sets himself to go against God’s design, horrible problems will always result (Source below).
I agree with Evans that Wilson’s remark here is terribly concerning, but I would not say that Wilson believes “unsubmitted women” deserve to be raped. Rather, I think Wilson believes that women who are unsubmitted to either their father or husband at all times, open themselves up for the possibility of rape, and that they should not be surprised if God allows rape to happen to them, because they are out of God’s designed will for their lives.
No doubt, this is a fine line that Wilson is walking, and Evans and others are right to be concerned in light of the fact that at least two sexual abuse cases have surfaced out of Wilson’s church. There is also a whole blog dedicated to exposing apparent darkness at Wilson’s church and school, called “The Truth About Moscow (Find Here).”
Now, as I said above, there are things I like about Douglas Wilson, but I find Wilson’s poor reputation both inside and outside of the Church concerning in light of 1 Timothy 3:7:
And he [an overseer in the Church] must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (Note: Since we see female overseers in other Pauline churches, such as Apostle Junia, Church leader and Bible teacher Priscilla, & Deacon Phoebe, we can be sure that the male pronouns used in this verse were meant for Timothy’s church situation only).
I worry that Wilson has set up his small empire in such a way that he has zero accountability, as he is obviously at the very top of this male-dominated hierarchical establishment. Strong leaders like Wilson, tend to surround themselves with “yes men” and “yes women,” leading to unseen pride in the leader. I almost pity Wilson, because this type of setup almost always leads to a fallen empire eventually.
Regardless of Wilson’s reputation, his remark above is simply out of touch with reality.
The truth is that some women are married to handicapped men, who would be physically incapable of protecting their wives from a rapist. Further, not all men are physically strong enough to take on all rapists. If a rapist who is physically stronger than my husband, breaks into my house tonight, I am in trouble with or without a man by my side. Further, if a rapist has a gun and we don’t, it doesn’t matter if my husband could physically take him or not.
Also, what if my father and my husband go on a ride together tomorrow and both die in a car accident? Then who will protect me? Who will I submit to? Will my male pastors and elders come sleep at my house with a baseball bat by their side? Do you see how unreasonable this argument is? If the Church would only take the time to think all the way through the implications of “gender role” theologies, we would have a much safer, logical and healthier establishment.
Most importantly, I could be the most unsubmissive, risky, feminist in the world and never get raped. Yet, it seems in Douglas Wilson’s camp, the Duggar’s camp, and other complementarian circles, the most submissive women in the world (who do have fathers/brothers/husbands) protecting them, do get molested and raped quite often.
Sometimes, they even get raped by their fathers, brothers and husbands. Other times they get raped by overseers in their churches and are often silenced by their local church leaders, and sometimes even by their own family members. I know this because I personally know an abuse victim who has come out of Wilson’s church and other women who are coming out of similar environments who were sexually abused to some degree. I can also read about these types of cases all over the “Christian internet,” as Christian women are finding the courage to share their stories.
In many of these complementarian circles, girls and women are the last to be protected from sexual abuse and the first to be victimized, and then silenced when they do speak out.
The sad reality is that these patriarchal camps often produce naive girls and women who are taught early on to submit to men, making them much more susceptible to molestation and rape than women who were taught to grow up, submit to God alone as their final authority, and take care of themselves.
The bottom line is that some women work out and take self-defense lessons, because they are in tune with reality. Women who do this are empowered, not as complementarians or egalitarians, but as grown ups who understand that there are rapists everywhere (inside and outside of the Church), and the best person to protect a woman against a rapist is herself, because she is the only person guaranteed to be there if ever approached.
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