Culture, Sexuality — January 13, 2012 12:58 pm

A Reluctant Response to “Real Marriage”

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Our tagline for this site is “Culture, Faith and Stuff.” I suppose a post about Mark Driscoll could fall under Faith, but for me, in this moment it falls under Stuff. And more specifically, “Stuff I don’t want to care about but feel as though I need to because he is a leading voice in a tradition that I am apart of.” So, let’s talk about Driscoll.

Driscoll recently released a book that is stirring up some controversy. Last year Rob Bell, another leading voice in my tradition, released a book that stirred the proverbial theological Kool-aid. The difference however is the content. Bell discussed the nature of God’s love for humanity and explored ideas of Universalism. Driscoll’s discusses Marriage, Relationships and SEX.

Driscoll discusses some pretty risque’ topics even for non-church related groups. Driscoll steps outside of that and offends general polite dialogue. A recent piece on The Daily Beast quotes from the book and it is shocking. Driscoll discusses oral sex, anal sex and masturbation in some detail. He goes on to discuss the duty or job of  a wife should be to keep herself “sexually available” for her husband. This concerns me.

Can I give you my thoughts?

I have grown up in the church. I was given the luxury of Christian parents who were thoughtful, graceful as well as intelligent, thinking people. We attended church on a weekly basis and I eventually became a consistent voice and face in my churches youth group. I will be the first to admit that in my time, growing up as a believer, running in Christian circles sex was never presented in a healthy light. Sex was consistent presented as an act only to thought of with in the context of marriage. Anything outside of this God-given institution was a sin and was to be viewed a misstep if someone fell into the temptation of the flesh.

As I grew older I my eyes were open to the world of sexuality. I am a virgin, I have never participated in an orgy and would not consider any of my personal experiences to be outside of any Bible based principles. The older I became, the more self aware I became, the more I understood the significance of sex. What it means for a person to participate in something like that with another person. I have much larger intellectual understanding of why the Bible uses it’s imagery to communicate different aspects of relationship. Unfortunately, none of these understandings have stemmed from a healthy conversation inside the walls of a church. They have come from enlightening and insightful conversations from men and women that I respect that would also align themselves with the Christian tradition who themselves have a varied past.

So, what is my point?

My point is this. When I hear about or read about books being released that explicitly talk about sex or pastors live streaming themselves in bed on a roof, it makes me want to give up. According to different reviews of Driscoll’s book he advocates for women to “give frequent blow jobs” to their husbands. These type and kind of conversations, for myself, make me feel disgusted and disinterested in the act as well as everything that comes with it. I am not interested in having a relationship with someone who is tasked to give me a “blow job” whenever I desire. This, I believe, sets an unhealthy hierarchy system in a marriage. Is there any conversation of the man’s role of being ready to sexually pleasure his wife orally? Shouldn’t the goal to be to seek after mutual satisfaction in each other in whatever way that naturally takes place within marriage?

I will fully admit that as a 26 year old male who is currently in the longest relationship of his life 1 (outside of my family) is no expert on this topic. But, what I believe I can speak to is this, if what Mark Driscoll is describing is the Biblical principles of Marriage and Sex than that is a Bible I cannot align myself with. Luckily, I am a recent graduate from Seminary and have had the luxury to study some of these topics in some detail and I am confident that this is NOT what the Bible is espousing.

Quickly, I want to discuss Ephesians 5. This passage is possibly where much of the arguments for sexual submission often stem from. Often when this passage is viewed or read we far to often camp out on verses 21-24:

21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.22 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. 23For 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. 24Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. 2

To stop there is to get an unhealthy perception of relationships as well as of women. Later, Paul continues in his discussion of of men and women and their relationship by saying, “In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” To skip over this passage, to me, seems to miss the entire point. I believe, this passage historically has been read to subjugate women and support a sexual politics that is incredibly inappropriate. But, if the reader continues further I believe Paul is making a solid egalitarian argument. To put it more simply, I believe Paul is echoing Matthew 7:12,”‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”

Well, if the title of Driscoll’s book is truly what is “Real” than I would like to politely excuse myself and claim conscientious objector.

  1. at the time of this writing 16 months on tuesday
  2. I’d be happy to discuss the nuances of the greek language in some sort of personal dialogue

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  • Great read, Matt.

  • Hey Matt – this is probably the most thoughtful, thought-provoking response I have read to Mark Driscoll’s new book. I really appreciate how, rather than just bashing Driscoll (as most responders have been doing), you explain why you have issues with what he writes, and how you make it personal.

  • Hey Matt, thanks for your thoughts. I think that the views many Christians espouse about marriage, gender roles, Ephesians 5 are broken, and much like you said, stop halfway to the point. I think it’s critical to understand that before Paul ever gets into wife/husband roles, he directs us all to be subject to one another. Any view that is unfaithful to this is unfaithful to the letter. And for some time, I have wondered why this passage has been so successfully used to subjugate women. For too many, this passage has been read to define men as decision-makers, the holders of power. I don’t know how this can be when the example of Christ (who men are specifically directed to emulate in this metaphor) seems so overwhelmingly to be that of Sacrificer, One who lays down His Life, the One who became Last, the One who identified with the Least of these. He is the One, “who made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:7). Somehow, I have found the world lacking in men racing to use this passage as an excuse to be Last, to be Love.

  • Thank you for writing this. As a single Christian woman who is constantly being bombarded by society’s views on sex and the message that my worth lies in my sexual serviceability, it terrifies me to hear of a prominent pastor encouraging something that sounds much more like the world’s views towards women than the Bible’s. If I marry I would hope to have a marriage lead by Christ and reflective of mutual servanthood – something so radically different.

    • Kelly, Thanks for reading and commenting. I totally agree, I truly believe that this type of thinking is really unhelpful and, dare I say toxic. I believe that it is important to work through these issues with critical dialogue moving from these historical views on women and gender, especially in the church. If we believe the church is to be a safe space we have to be working through these issues to be on the side of the person, the whole person.

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