Evangelicals Still Trying to Grapple With Sex, Modernity


MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE BIBLE BELT: Evangelicals are still struggling with this whole “women’s lib” thing. Let’s check in with the debate over “Biblical womanhood” and submission, shall we?

No, I am not referring to the art and science of being tied up in ropes made as they were in the time of Moses. (Though that sounds fun, too.) Rather, the Tennessean says that the subject of a wife’s proper relation to her husband is popping up all over, with two upcoming conferences in Nashville expected to touch on the subject and local couple Adonis and Heather Lenzy releasing a dating book reportedly packed with morsels such as, “The fact is that God made us to submit to our husbands, whether we’re housewives or the big bosses at work.”

More famously, Candace Cameron Bure of Full House fame recently made headlines by discussing her mindful “meekness” in marriage.

You see, according to the Tennessean, evangelicals have late realized that even their own congregations can’t be relied on as paragons anymore. Witness the fretting of the Southern Baptist Convention:

It’s another battle in America’s culture wars, one evangelical churches find themselves facing more often as a new kind of parishioner fills the pews, said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“There was a day that many churches could assume they were living in Mayberry and seek to apply texts to pictures that people in the pews already had in their minds,” Moore said. “That day is over, due to the changing family structure and divorce culture.”

Presumably that’s what inspired the ERLC to organize its first “leadership summit” on “The Gospel and Human Sexuality.” The theme: “how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin.” (On the less stereotypical front, Nashville will also host the “Q” conference, which looks like TED reimagined by an apostle.)

See, even evangelical strongholds like Nashville (capital of not just the country music business, but also the Christian publishing industry) have changed a lot in recent decades. Churchgoers don’t necessarily feel obligated to wear chastity belts until the honeymoon or run their post-wedding household like it’s Abraham’s caravan. Meanwhile the SBC is getting some pushback against its women-should-be-subservient strictures, outlined in this 2009 NPR article. Then, you have writers like Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist. She believes in “submission,” sure, but it’s not just her doing the submitting:

I submit to my husband. And he submits to me, too. And together, we submit to Jesus.
Like many Christians down through the centuries, we practice mutual submission. Patriarchy and hierarchy within marriage were consequences of the Fall (see Genesis 3:16).

You better believe I’m printing that off on a slip of paper to take to my next family reunion.

What’s particularly annoying about the pro-submission crowd is that they don’t treat the practice for what it is—a religious commandment that only makes sense if you accept the tenants of their religion. Like eating kosher. Instead, it’s another skirmish in the big, dumb culture war, so they must insist it’s the only way to have a happy marriage:

“I didn’t like (the word ‘submission’) at first because I was independent, but I wanted something different because I had been married before, and I didn’t want to go through another failed marriage,” Heather Lenzy said. “I learned it wasn’t to boss me around or hurt me. It was for my own good.”

Look, eat shrimp, don’t eat shrimp. But don’t come over here pestering me with your dietary restrictions.

Photo via Getty.

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