Two recent blogs have raised the topics of control and submission to authority.
This one – http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/02/22/your-husband-doesnt-have-to-earn-your-respect/ opened a large can of worms addressing “Wives, respect your husbands.” At last count, it has generated 1,876 comments. The dialog has been intense, revealing much pain and disfunction in marriage. It has also brought those with a strong religious spirit out of the woodwork. These latter wield scripture like a shillelagh, quoting Greek word meanings, and older interpreters of the Word to justify, and this is a quote, the subjugation of the wife to the husband in all things. Happily there are a few sane voices who have a broader, deeper view of the “Christ life,” but they are almost lost in the flurry of exchanges lobbed from behind the ramparts of self-righteousness or wounded-ness. Many see no problem with the obvious control of one person’s life by another.
The other blog (Internet Monk.com, March 4) was occasioned by the revelation of Bill Gothard’s continuing sexual impropriety, all the while teaching the importance of submitting to leadership both in and outside of the family. Many of the respondents recalled having attended the Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts which was all the rage among evangelical and charismatic Christians in the Seventies and Eighties. Gothard taught an authoritarian structure of obedience and submission to authority, describing a series of umbrellas with God on top, the man and his umbrella below that, and the mother’s umbrella shielding the children at the bottom. Woe unto you if you walked out from the protection of those umbrellas! It was described as a safety structure; few saw it for the authoritarian controlling arrangement it really was. Because of Gothard’s enormous influence on a large segment of Christendom, at least North American Christendom, the whole idea of covering was accepted as normative and Biblical.
The idea of covering extended to women much more than men. If a man established a para church ministry, either on his own or with a small group, it was accepted as “He is answering the call of God.” If a woman was recognized for her teaching or preaching ability and began to share that gift, she was frequently castigated, called a Jezebel, or at least asked “Who is your covering?”
At one time The Lord was blessing a small group that met in my home for the purpose of ministering to others through prayer and counsel. Many lives were changed for the better as they were set free from things which had hindered their Christian walk for years. We soon had a waiting list of people who had seen the fruit of our ministry in the lives of those who had come to us. But then… The religious spirit reared it’s ugly head. First, we were accused by the church leadership that we were trying to establish a work of division, a house church to draw people away.
Not so, we all vehemently replied. We were just being means of blessing the flock who then became more actively involved in the church following our ministry to them. What is not to like about that, we asked. The fear and suspicion continued. I asked them for their blessing, or at least to license me, to provide that “covering” everyone seemed to believe was necessary. That was never given because they thought I might want to become a member of their elder board. Not so, I declared once again. It was then I left and joined another fellowship.
The work continued weekly. We pursued further training to better serve the Body of Christ by helping individuals in the walk of discipleship. One day I was called on the carpet by a former pastor.
“Who is your covering?”
Translation: If this work is not set up by a local church, it has no validity or you are out of order. Knowing we were not trying to undercut anyone, nor raise up a new church, and feeling secure in myself that God was ok with what was happening I simply replied what I still believe to be true: Jesus is our covering.
There is of course a concern that anyone without that “covering” can become a loose cannon. Having a teachable spirit and staying in relationship with mature believers is vital for everyone, male and female alike. But the covering idea has denied validity to a real work of God. Rather, it is a covering for a controlling spirit, which thrives on domination. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Or as another translation puts it, “”be not entangled again by human bondage.”
And that about covers it.