Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why I Won't Become a Christian


Our friend, Steve, fell in love with Stacy, a Wiccan. They married shortly after Doug and I were married and Steve had played classical guitar in our wedding.
One afternoon, we met in a café inside a Barnes and Noble bookstore in Upstate New York. She sat at the table thumbing through a book of spells. She made it a point to show me what she was reading. She was surprised that a Christian would take the time to talk with her and not sit cowering in fear. We began open dialogue; some of the questions and comments became quite pointed.
“I could never become a Christian. Your religion treats women like dirt!” She said to me in a matter-of –fact voice. “In Wicca, women are the center of things.”
Having come out of a prior first marriage where my abuser was a Pastoral Theology graduate, I had to think a few minutes before answering. True, some people used religion as an excuse or tool to denigrate and abuse women, but did the Bible really teach the practice of that philosophy?
"While historically, some people who have called themselves Christians have mistreated women and others in the name of God, Jesus really does not teach this. In fact, He chose to come to earth through a woman-without the help of man. His mother was highly favored. Many of Jesus’ closest friends and followers were women mentioned as co-laborers with his male disciples in an era where cultural views of women reflected their value as mere slaves not even to be included in public records or lineage. Jesus and his followers were actually instrumental in elevating women in society. ” Of course, I had more to say, but did not want to overwhelm her. She had been exposed to Christianity and had much knowledge of the Bible but seemingly some hurt and misunderstanding as well.
“Well, I have to admit, you do have a point,” she paused for a moment and then spat out what was bugging her, “ but I heard you say your vows! Your pastor talked about the wife being submissive to the husband and the husband being the head of the home! That’s crazy and outdated! Not to mention the fact that you shocked us when you married early. We wondered if you were pregnant or something. But it was just that Doug needed a place to stay before the wedding and you wouldn’t live together without the ring and then you had your public wedding after that. Is that all part of the submission thing? It’s so weird.”
“Well, I guess it would sound that way if one didn’t study the context and meaning of submission. Living together is another subject. Let me answer the “submission” question first. The Bible teaches that a man is to love his wife like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. The kind of husband who is a servant-leader like Jesus would not abuse his wife, but lay down his life for her. She in turn, would not be harmed but be blessed under his leadership.” I was getting on my soap-box. I’d heard too many misinterpretations of the word, “submission” and believed them myself for years.At one point, I used to think that submission meant submersion-that I had no right to any opinion of my own, that I could have no life, that I must check my brain out at the door to my home and become like a lifeless dishrag to be tossed around at will. How warped and off-track was that? But that is what many people think it means. On top of that, many men think that submission is men forcing all women under every man’s power and authority. This could not be further from the truth.
First of all, the Bible says that women are to be submissive to their own husbands not every man that walks in the door. It also says that we are all to be submissive to one another- a courtesy of honoring others as better than ourselves. It is not a slave-owner relationship.
“Actually, the word ‘submit’ comes from the Greek Word, ‘hupotasso’ which means to submit one’s self under the authority of, to choose to be in obedience or be subdued under. So, in this way, it is not the man’s job to force the submission. It is the free will of a wife surrendering to the leadership of her husband just as Christians believe in submitting to the leadership of God. Let me see if I can come up with an example. Stacy, you work a job, right?”
“Yes, you know where I work,” She said, her eyebrows forming a question mark.
“Follow me for a second,” I grinned. “You have a boss, right?”
“Ya, so do you.”
“ True. Do you still have thoughts and ideas of your own?” I said, playing dumb.
“Of course. I see where you’re going now. But I don’t call the shots at work. I have to follow my boss.” She was close to what I was going to say.
“Right, Stacy, but does your boss ever have staff meetings?” I had her attention now.“Well, once a month we meet for Team meetings and have lunch but what does that have to do with it?”
“The boss knows that you have ideas and wants to hear them but ultimately, he is the boss and you follow his lead when it all comes down, right?” I wrapped it up.
“When you explain it like that, it doesn’t sound so bad.” Stacy agreed. “Well, you guys sure seem happy anyway. I can’t see Doug mistreating you at all. But I still couldn’t do it. I don’t understand why anyone would want to live that way.”
“Well, most people want a job, so they work for a boss. They are not offended because they have a boss.” I could have continued the debate but saw that she was uncomfortable.
The subject suddenly turned to coffee as we smelled fresh gourmet blends perking. I knew I hadn’t converted her. I had merely defended the faith. She and her husband were quite observant after that of the life Doug and I chose. In the next few months, Steve would ask us how things were going whenever we met one of them in public.
I’d reply, “Oh, we’re just trying to settle into our family routines.”
“Somehow, I can’t picture any life at your home as routine! By the way, do you remember that once-in-a blue-moon tornado we had last month?” Steve took a deep breath.
“Yes, what happened? Did your house get hit? Is everything okay with you and your wife?” I was concerned.
“Well, believe it or not, it came right toward our home. And you wouldn’t believe what my wife did. She prayed to your Jesus and it turned away from our home.” He said with a puzzled look.
“Wow, you’re kidding me, right?”
“No. Dead serious,” He was not joking. I’d never seen such concern on his face. “I’ve been thinking about it myself, lately too. It was so strange to watch. Something was definitely different about that prayer.”
It was the last time I spoke to him before our move to Florida. I don’t know what became of Steve and Stacey, but a seed was planted and I didn’t even share the whole gospel with them. All I did was love them and have open dialogue. They asked the questions and I gave what answers I knew how to share. Of course, it helped that I had not just parroted other people’s ideas. I studied the verses on submission myself to see what they really meant. Then I was ready to give an answer to someone who asked.
From time to time, I think of it. What if I had not studied that topic? What if I had not respected the philosophy of biblical submission but gone the way of my heart after having been victimized in my past? What would have happened? Only God knows. I sure would not have the happy marriage I now have.
Some may look at my strong spirit and outspoken views and say that I am not submissive enough. Others may say I am too submissive. I’ve had Christian friends tell me what ultimatums they would give my husband of decisions they would not like if they were his wife. This grieves me. Are we not to encourage each other to love and do good works?
My husband is a unique balance of gentleness and strength and in my opinion, he is very close to modeling the leadership style of Jesus. He is humble, cares for his family and values his bride. He treats me as his equal but leads with calm assurance. I respect when he puts his foot down and I trust in his ability to lead our family. I do give opinions. Lots of them. That is one of the things he likes about me. He does not always follow my advice nor do I think he should. I don’t always like what he requests of me, but I respect it and try to follow with all that I can. I don’t have a naturally submissive spirit as I once did, but I do submit. I choose to. He never takes advantage of that either. We are blessed.
I see our boys learning from his gentlemanly ways and I see them learning his leadership style as well, when they interact with little kids or animals. It’s cute to watch.
I hope that through our example, we are reflecting biblical roles to our children and the world around us. I hope they see submission and the Bible in a positive light after viewing our lives. I want them to say, “This is why I want to become a Christian…” rather than “This is why I don’t want to be a Christian…”

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