Warning: Sexually charged imagery, language, and verbage
Recently in the Christian blogosphere, a heated dialogue has erupted over a few badly-chosen words. In reaction to the whirlwind of excitement over 50 Shades of Grey, a recent erotic thriller turned bestseller, Jared Wilson (quoting Douglas Wilson) had this to say:
Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed. [emphasis added]
Rachel Held Evans, a fairly forward-thinking female Christian, responded appropriately to the remarks:
According to this post, sex is just another avenue through which a man must exert his authority over woman. As with everything else, the man is the boss and the woman is the subordinate. Wilson contrasts this “God-ordained” relationship of authority and submission to that of an “egalitarian pleasure party,” which I can only assume refers to a sexual relationship characterized by mutual pleasure, mutual authority, mutual submission, and mutual respect—which sounds a lot more desirable to me than being conquered and colonized.
Evans used a very thorough approach, citing several Biblical instances where sex was initiated by the woman, or where the woman was otherwise in charge. I have also yet to see any mention of anal stimulation initiated by the female, which turns the ‘penetration’ idea on its head entirely.
She, along with others, attempted to point out the blatantly misogynistic, harmful, rapelike and degrading language used by both Wilsons, only to have insults, slurs and dismissal thrown back at them. Throughout the comments thread, there is a consistent dismissal of the concerns of outraged men and women for the language used, with comments such as “Only a person with a poetic ear like three feet of tin foil would maintain that penetrates can only be used of a Nazi invasion of Belgium…” or “…if they still have that [negative] view [of me] after reading enough pages, they really need to retake their ESL class.
When 100 people tell you your words were taken a certain way, you listen to them.
Another blogger, Dianne Anderson, sums it up thus:
This response is a failure, not only of grace and compassion, but of basic skill as a writer. It is the freshman comp student whining to their professor that they should be graded on what they meant to say, not on what they actually said. [emphasis hers]
Finally, after several days of commenting, the authors have finally relented and added a disclaimer to their original work. It may or may not be a sarcastic slur against Evans’ opening bracket:
[TRIGGER WARNING]: The content of this post (and resulting comments) contains language and imagery that may be sensitive or harmful to victims of sexual abuse or rape
The response (now added to the top) makes it seem as though Wilson, begrudgingly, has finally half-admitted to being misunderstood.
When you use language that evokes rape imagery, you apologize.
There is no hint of apology, or of humility, throughout the comments thread. It took hundreds of comments and dozens of blog articles to get the author to add a disclaimer about imagery. This smells like bullshit from a mile away. Perhaps the authors should listen to more 9-inch nails [NSFW] to understand their own fucking imagery.
Fundamentals of Fundamentalism
Christian after Christian have been surprised by the callous tone, the dismissive attitude, and the general insincerity of hundreds of people telling the Wilsons that the language they used was bad. Words such as “unworthy of the gospel,” are used to describe them. It seems everyone, everywhere in Christendom that has a thinking head on their shoulders are without an explanation for their behavior.
I’m not surprised. One bit.
Here’s the thing: the way you get to being a fundamentalist, the fundamental thing about it, is that you have to willfully ignore so much, it becomes the natural state of your reality. This inbuilt protection from critical analysis, summed up in proverbs 3:5,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
means that when you listen to God, He (you) cannot be wrong! Ever! Including when 10, 500, or 1,000,000 people disagree with you.
Wilson and Wilson’s attitudes only make sense in light of this notion: Everyone else is wrong, less enlightened, less aware, less godly, less spiritual, than they are, therefore everyone’s say is incorrect. They are speaking the Lord’s wisdom, the offensive gospel, which is “foolishness to those who are perishing.” The authors are given a free pass by God Himself to ignore criticism, and top it off with offense of people being a positive trait!
Thankfully, there are many out there who have not made it their practice to take offense as fuel for their fire in a Westboro-Baptist-esque parade of willful ignorance and pride. But when the fundamental tenent of your worldview is that ridicule means you’re correct, or that you make a habit of ignoring everything that doesn’t agree with your view,
you’re gonna have a bad time.