Unraveling: part 4

“Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Saviour. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.” Ephesians 5:22-23.

Today is Tuesday, June 28, 2022. The Supreme Court negated Roe v. Wade four days ago. Many women are angry and demoralized and grieving and lost and raging and sickened.

The cage created by evangelical Christianity rattles, the hinges squeak, the bars twist in their sockets. The bars look bent. Like the bars of Geronimo’s jail cell at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Growing up in the Southern Baptist Church, these Bible verses (and surprisingly not the ones after) were emphasized as often as a driver locks the car doors. I remember hearing this sermon preached over and over in some variation and watching the women slightly nod while the men maintained their stoic visage. Women could take care of the nursery, could teach Sunday School to the youth, could cook for Sunday potlucks, could work in the secretary’s office. But…

Women are not allowed to preach. Women are not allowed to be in positions of leadership over the man. I was taught that because there were no women disciples, there could be no women in leadership.

Why? Why can’t women lead?

Eve.

Eve failed to listen to Adam.

Eve was the cause of sin in the world.

Eve was weak.

Eve listened to the snake.

Eve took the apple.

Eve took a bite.

Eve was to blame.

Eve could not be trusted.

Eve was the cause.

We are the seed from Eve, and we have inherited her sin, her failure, her deficiency.

We are less than men. We are weaker. We are incomplete.

We are a woman’s lack.

I should probably break this next part up into another post, but…you know, I don’t believe I will. Because it’s all tied together. Everything has to do with the indoctrination from the Evangelical Christian belief that women are less, women are wrong, women are to remain beneath.

When I got married in 1998, I believed that I should retain the language as well as the notion of “obey” in my wedding vows. I believed that I should obey my husband. I believed that if I obey him and his strength and ability to perceive all that should happen in the marriage and the future that we would be well. I believed that if there was discord in the marriage it would be my fault because I was failing to obey, I was failing to submit, I was failing to accept my portion as lower than.

And, let me be clear, that this submission included all — ALL — aspects of the marriage. Whatever he wanted, I was to submit to.

I will digress for a few moments while I purge what’s popped in my mind for a moment. But, because this is four days post-Roe turnover, I am writing this section even though it might not seem to “fit.” It’s my blog anyway, and I can write what I feel…

“I won’t get a vasectomy. It could reduce the amount of my jizz.”

“I don’t like condoms because I can’t feel as well.”

“There’s no use in pulling out because you could still get pregnant from pre-ejaculate.”

Words I heard over and over throughout the course of my marriage from 1998-2013. We discussed within the first year of being married not to have children. By the third year the decision was firm. We revisited the idea of children throughout those first three years, but we appreciated the freedom of our life and were unwilling to change absolutely every single aspect of our lives to have children.

It was assumed that I would be on the pill for birth control when we married, and I stayed on them for many years. I tried many, many different kinds/brands/formulations. After having suffered from acne since 5th grade and being on almost every kind of anti-acne medication and topicals since my early-teens, including two separate rounds of Accutane, I appreciated that the pill cleared my acne. However, they caused so many side effects like headaches, migraines, weight gain, nausea, inconsistent periods, high blood pressure. I stopped taking them several times and used other forms of birth control including a cup, foam, Norplant, and the DepoVera shot. Several times I was terrified the birth control method we used failed and I would get pregnant. Or that I was already pregnant. Luckily, RU-486 came out in 2000, and the Morning After Pill was released shortly after that. However, I distinctly remember the shame I felt when I went to the drugstore to get them. I felt like I’d had a one-night-stand. Irresponsible. Loose. Desperate.

While living in Seattle, I went to my doctor expressing my frustration with the varying forms of birth control I tried. She discussed with me the IUD, but I heard horror stories of it shifting and possible internal damage it could do. I didn’t want any part of that. I asked her about a partial hysterectomy, complete hysterectomy, taking the ovaries only, having my tubes tied, and any other permanent surgical procedures. I was around 36 at the time, and I was fully and wholly and entirely aware that I absolutely did not want children. Absolutely no way. A firm and hard no. But, she said there was no medical reason to take that drastic path. I could have easily gotten a boob job, liposuction, a tummy tuck. All these procedures were not medically necessary. But, nonetheless, I could have walked into a cosmetic surgeon’s office, pulled out my credit card, and I would have had a date for surgery. Piece of cake. But if I wanted more power over my reproductive capacity, my “control” was only a limiting illusion. Even discussing with her that it would be an elective surgery like a boob job and that I would not expect insurance to cover it…nope.

Even then, in the medical capacity for bodily autonomy, I had little power.

And even less power…

Because whatever he wanted I was supposed to fulfill. So, for an almost sixteen year marriage, I followed what I had been indoctrinated to do as a result of growing up in the Southern Baptist Evangelical Church: submission. Don’t have sex before marriage, which we didn’t. And whatever he wanted with the marriage, submit. And, in time, that became something else. Often, I “went” somewhere else in my mind. Always, I tried to convince myself that this was the way it was supposed to be. That all marriages were like this. That all women endured this. That all men expected this. That all men expected their women to “be” someone else, some fantasy. That even though I didn’t look like me, he would still know it was me. That when it got to a point that it wasn’t me anymore, I had already retreated so far within myself that I was truly lost. That this was the way it always was and always would be. I hated myself. I was a terrible wife because I should have been loving and generous and all the things the infallible Word of God demanded that I should be. And, in time, I hated him.

Wives, submit to your husbands.

Wives, submit to your husbands.

Wives, submit to your husbands.

Submit.

Obey.

Submit.

Obey.

And I never said a word.

Silence.

To anyone about anything.

Because God forbid that I should disrespect him to another person. I had to protect him. Defend him. Show him to be a wonderful husband and partner and that everything in the marriage was perfection. I split myself between two worlds. The public. The private.

Wives, submit to your husbands.

Because we are the daughters of Eve.

Is it no wonder why so many marriages of abuse occur within the evangelical and fundamental churches?

And then my grandmother died. And that’s when I gained the courage to leave.

And then I went to seminary. But I went to seminary only for the education and spiritual rebirth that I desperately needed. And I received both in overwhelming abundance!

And when I was encouraged to seek discernment for ordination, my response was always, “No. I’m only going for the education. I do not believe women should be priests.”

“Women aren’t to be in church leadership.”

“Women are supposed to keep quiet.”

“Women are to sit down.”

I am the daughter of Eve. The harbinger of sin into the world. How can I be a priest?

And thus began the transformation of what was to what was not.

This unraveling, my deconstruction, continued throughout my marriage. My doubts of God that started in high school, the battle with God during college at Baylor, became a war against God during my marriage.

There is more, more to be told. And I will need to backtrack, to fill in gaps.

But I must pause, catch my breath, take respite from breaking the cage.

2 thoughts on “Unraveling: part 4

  1. Janie, my sister in Faith, and my sister in experience! You are indeed unraveling all that many of us had to unravel in order to control our lives, our sanity, and our faith. The second part of the Ephesians verses never get quoted in fundamentalist churches: Husbands, love your wives the way that Christ loved the Church, and was willing to die for Her! (paraphrased) When we forget to read fully we end up with this horrible proof texting that marginalizes, controls, institutionalizes. Women need to quit blaming themselves first! We need to remember we are made in the Image of God. And God does NOT make us inferior because of a Bible story that was one of many stories of prehistory to justify or codify something like sin. Patriarchy is dying a slow death and we need to nudge it along!

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    1. Proof testing indeed! So many little girls grow up going to church, like I did, every time the doors were opened. We watched other women: the ones in choir, the ones in the kitchen, the ones teaching Sunday School. We watched their responses when other women came into the room. Hugging one another. Laughing and chittering together like school girls. Then the men came in the room. And the familiarity stopped. The body language stiffened. The responses to the questions were short if not single words. And we little girls watched and observed and absorbed and learned the “proper” behavior. While the patriarchy might not die within my lifetime, I will not be silent to its existence in my creation story. I will not stand by while the little girls of tomorrow say, “Mothers, grandmothers, aunties…where were your voices??”

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