Epistles and Psalms

The Blog of Bobby Ray Hurd

Month: June, 2013

Feminist but Not Egalitarian: Submitting to Your Mother

“Religious people who can think only in terms of rivalry, superiority, equality, and inferiority thus bring against Jesus the charge that he is making himself [G-d’s] equal. They are incapable of imagining that a man, Jesus, can be [G-d] with his Father, and that the vocation of all of us is to be [G-d] with the Father.”
— Jacques Ellul

I am a feminist but I am not an egalitarian…because I believe Jesus identified with the struggle of women but would never identify with the idolatry of power that put them in a position of struggle.

Thus, (as I am believing it) to be an egalitarian and to be feminist is to ignore the prophetic fire brought against the idolatry of power the feminist voice has brought to the table
of fellowship to cast out the demon of power and privilege

Thus, I am a feminist, and not an egalitarian, because I believe Christians are commanded to embody relational holiness rather than entertain any notion of privilege or equality. Therefore, to be feminist is never to understand gender relations in terms of “equality” but in terms of the freedom to be gendered in its fullness as we seek to fully express the full image of G-d in holiness as a form of reconciliatory worship.

Thus, I am a feminist because I, as a man, believe Christ was right when he said:

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt. 16:25).

Thus, I am a feminist, and not an egalitarian, because I believe feminism disciplines me, as a man, to consider what it might mean to die to myself and be lead to embody a gender relation of holiness that serves those of whom experience G-d differently than me– and this is certainly because G-d created them differently than me.

Thus, it it clear to me that Christ commands his male followers to die to themselves and learn a way of submission and grace expressed toward their Mother. In such submission, men will learn to repent of the power that has hated their Mother and learn to be a means of grace to Her. Thus, In such submission, they will learn what it means to fully be a man of G-d made in the image of their Creator; because it seems all religious people can seem to imagine is religious notions of superiority and/or equality and the divine “rites” and/or “rights” they are granted therein.

Thus, the question at hand for a Christian is not “how do we share power equally?” but “how do we serve each other and repent of power entirely?”

And so, I am a feminist, and not an egalitarian, because I do not believe in the notion of “human rights” necessarily. I believe, rather, in the authority of the Church and its communal commitment to mutual submission and powerlessness in worship of their Christ who modeled such a way of living. I believe this practice is our earthly example for relational holiness before the Creator who made us different from each other and has left us with the task of reconciliation in those divinely inspired differences. Thus, we must learn to fully express our genderedness in the Body through mutual submission and servanthood rather than grant any notion of superiority or equality to anyone.

Thus, I am a feminist, and not an egalitarian, because I believe men and women are not equal. Notions of equality force gender relations into a way where they must equate each other rather than be free in submission and servanthood to discover the one true G-d (the One beyond all such classifications) in those differences— differences that do not “equate” each other but hold each other accountable to worship in holiness.

Thus, in the Body of Christ, men are called to serve the priesthood of women because we too must witness to G-d as a mother figure of whom we can only know through the experiences of those women who have known Her; for I am merely a man and, thus, can only hope to listen and serve this G-d made known to me in their faithfulness to Her. Thus, I am commanded to know the fullness of that image so that I may know what it means to be relationally holy in a world where difference can only infer a “rite” to privilege or a “right” to equality.

I am a feminist, and not an egalitarian, because I have come to believe that my maleness should never coerce the prophetic voice that speaks from within the inspired spirit of femininity. It should serve it, honor it, nurture it, and bring it out in its fullness through submission and servanthood so that we may bring out the fullness of our genderedness through creating an environment where we no longer observe Powers that suppress it.

Be Powerless,

Bobby Ray

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Apologia: My Application to Help

Dear Friends,

After posting my first two letters that introduced the concept of “rape theology,” I am feeling urged to take a step back and say a few words out of sensitivity to the very personal feelings a term like “rape” brings up for so many; especially those women most directly affected by it.

I had a conversation yesterday with my dear soon-to-be-wife Shawna (and several other women involved in a blog collective I am a part) about some of the issues of insensitivity that I could potentially own as I delve deeper into the issue of “rape theology.”

Therefore, here are a few things I wish to speak to in light of these interactions:

1) My involvement with the fight for relational holiness has come from a long personal history of repentance and lamenting the relational damage done by the power complexes inherent to my sexist upbringing in a male-centric Church. And so, I must admit that while I have been delivered from the addictive powers of theological sexism I was conditioned to, I am (and will always be) a recovering sexist (similar to how an alcoholic is always an alcoholic whether they are drinking or not). With this in mind, I ask for your grace as I try to speak to a subject that concerns even myself; one who is conditioned to believe and trust the power of my own privilege as a white male. And so, (especially the women who read this blog) please be forthright in bringing your criticisms to me (for you are my priesthood on this subject) as I try to embody the significance of what I am after here to its fullest extent.

Hold me accountable to my conversion throughout this journey.

2) I use the term “rape theology” to be consistent with the language used surrounding the discussion about “rape culture” that was chosen before I entered the conversation. Granted, a term like “rape” brings up all sorts of demons from past experiences for people who have been abused (or have known abused people). Therefore, the effect a term like “rape” has on people faced with the abuse inherent to rape thinking should not be minimized; at all. However, if you do choose to press on wrestling with this subject as I am approaching it, please keep in mind that the term “rape” was not chosen for shock value or out of some manipulative misogynistic tactic for being able use language without the consent of the women affected by rape thinking. It is for purposes of coherency in continuing a discussion that was going on way before I got involved.

3) I never want to come across as if I, in all of my maleness, am an “advocate” for women; as if I am some theological knight. Such a thing infers women are not perfectly capable of advocating for themselves and assumes yet another platitude for male power. Rather, I would imagine a word like “ally” to be a much more suitable term to use here; because it infers my own submission as the one society recognizes as the one with power. Furthermore, such a term infers I identify myself as a repentant “helper” to the woman’s movement rather than a lead. I, therefore, submit my application to be a helper as I attempt to explore a subject that I feel might help the movement my dear sisters are doing a great job of being “advocates” for by themselves. Therefore, I simply ask your permission to be a helper to those affected by rape thinking; and I ask this as the affected (not me) take the lead for something that was going on way before I became involved.

Be Powerless,

Bobby Ray

Rape Theology: The Epidemic Idolatry of Christian People– Part 1A: The Imperial Male Cult

Case 1) Rape Ontology: “Penetrate, Conquer, and Colonize; Receive, Surrender, Accept”

Essential vocabulary:

ontology: 1: a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence 2: of relating to essence or the nature of being

self-justification: a self-centered attitude by which people defend their actions and beliefs without reference to G-d. Scripture insists that the confidence and ultimate justification of believers lie with G-d, and condemns those who look elsewhere for these (source: Bible Gateway).

rite: a religious or other solemn ceremony or act 2: a body of customary observances characteristic of a church or part of it.

Valiant defender of complementation theology, Jared Wilson of the “Gospel Coalition,” once articulated a gender theology that reflects his strictly Reformed ontological commitments by making one of the boldest public statements about gender relations on record from a Christian figurehead (summer 2012). He wrote:


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…True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.

What Wilson has done here is astonishing. He has set before his readers a theology for gender relations that suggests our very ontological identity as created beings of gender is one that suggests we are created in the image of a power structure between human beings and G-d; therefore, such a hierarchy (one where “true authority” meets “true submission) is to be reflected and sustained in the relationship between male and female. Therefore, anything other than obedience to this strictly hierarchic ontology would be falling into the traps of a gender “pleasuring party.” Wilson makes it clear: For a woman not to “submit, receive, accept” man and for a man not to “penetrate, conquer, colonize, and plant” woman is the basis for people of gender falling into a self-fulfilling religion. Therefore, for Wilson (and his metaphor that is quite obviously overrun with sexualized undertones), this is the basis for how people of gender fall into the trap of self-justification (the religious belief that your works are sufficient before the righteousness of G-d). While I would say that such a theological statement is initially true and substantiated in Scripture (disobedience to the Creator amounts to self-justification), it is the relational values of this ontology that substantiate the gender relations of Creation that are what I have seen to be the basis for “rape ontology;” because the message is clear: to deny the authority of the divinely designed gender hierarchy is to self-justify oneself before the Creator and asserting rather, “I’m doing it my own way!” To disrespect the ontological gender hierarchy is, therefore, sinning against G-d as Creator.

Let me encourage you to regard such a thing as nothing more than the theological undergirds of gnosticism and spiritual abuse; because what Wilson does not realize is that he has done precisely the opposite of what he is intending to escape (self-justification). What he has clearly done is created an ontological framework that is fertile for establishing a cult of male self-justification that has been scandalously veiled by ontological notions of “divine authority.” Such a thing, therein, finds its telos in sexual intercourse (man “penetrates” and woman “accepts”) thus making it the theological basis for creating human life and sustaining human flourishing.

Thus, according to Wilson, if a woman does not accept the ontological rite of her husband to conquer her (if she does not “submit, receive, and accept”), she has made of herself an idolatrous rogue fighting against her very purpose in the Created Order as per G-d’s intended purposes for gender relations. Likewise, if a man does not form his life with the ontological philosophy of “penetrate, conquer, and colonize,” he is certainly not a man of G-d and is, thereby, sinning against the Creator as he has plainly transgressed obedience to the Creator by failing to claim his primacy and relative rite to rule over woman. From here, the “erotic necessity” of human reproduction fails to find concrete expression because neither have lived up to G-d’s design for creation.

As I have wrestled with this sort of theology, I have come to the belief that this is precisely the theological pasture of gnosticism for which the seed of “rape ontology” is sown; because it is by the divine decree of the Creator that a man has primacy over his wife and, thus, the wife must accept this rule just as the man accepts primacy over himself from G-d (being “penetrated” by G-d so to speak). And so, as a theological consequence, man is the divine witness of G-d (and His rite to power) to woman by embodying a gender relation that gives man primacy over woman. Therefore, if one were to flesh this out in terms of relational ethics for every day living, man has clearly been granted a special place of privilege over woman; therefore, at every juncture of gender relations, female obedience to the divine rite of male primacy is normative for living faithfully into the ontological narrative of Scripture.

And so, as we are beginning to see, the term “rape” is quite appropriate here when describing this sort of thing. G-d decrees the power structure; therefore, it is her position not to question the power structure at all but to accept it, receive it, submit to it, and ultimately find her way through a life of faith that never questions her role to submit, never questions the character inherent to divinized notions of hierarchical primacy, but simply that her submissive role is inevitable, divinely ordained, inherent to the call of her gender, and, therefore, must never form any relation of discord with man. G-d has righteously given man the privilege of “penetration, conquering, and colonizing” her that foils her privilege to submit to all such things.

This understanding of the Created Order clearly has the workings of a “rape” mentality inherent to it. Man can count on the religious rite of her submission and she has the religious rite of being ruled; just like every vile rapist and pagan sodomist who has ever lived might suggest. “It is my rite, ordained by the divine, to have primacy over you and it is your religious rite to submit to such primacy. This is the divine will. Submit or disobey the gods!”

Rape…ontology!

However, when we are faced with Scripture, we will see this is the classic move pagans have made for millenia when they misuse, misappropriate, abuse, and ultimately gnosticize theological language to justify their religious rite to power and primacy. Thus, what Wilson has done is nothing more than reinterpreted a classically pagan ontological framework for underwriting the “rite of rule” for an imperial religion/cult. However, rather than form it in the image of Caesar or Pharaoh, he has scandalously formed it in the image of a self-fulfilling religion of male supremacy.

Thus, as we have seen, the ontology of Jared Wilson (something very common in the Christian Church) is clearly ripe for birthing the dangerous religion of sadists who hide and sedate their outward expressions of lustful behavior with the justification of ontological notions of male privilege and female “submission.” This protects them from repenting of the villainous ivory tower incumbent to their idealism that has ultimately created a gender relation that amounts to nothing more than the vile civil religion of an imperialistic male cult.

To be fair, I do not think Jared Wilson is a rapist. I do not even think he would ever advocate for such an action. However, it is quite clear to me that his use of ontological language is overrun with rape thinking. Such thinking veils him from considering the truth that the ontology of his “gospel” propels Christian men in an ethical direction where they must never go through the pains of mercy necessary to be reconciled to their sisters. They would rather dismiss all such feminist heresy to protect the self-idolatry of the many Christian men who cop out of such costly work; because such repentance might require he admit that the male imperial cult of Western Christianity is just as much of a sadistically idolatrous, gnostic crime against humanity when lived out by Christian men as it was when lived out in eerily similar fashion by the cult of Rome who ultimately slew our Messiah in the blind spot of their own imperial cult and self-justification.

In my next letter, we will take a look into where Scripture challenges rape ontology. We will then hopefully arrive in a place where we may more faithfully strive for relational holiness; a place where we no longer have to hide the historic male lust for power with faux notions of justification.

Be Powerless,

Bobby Ray

Rape Theology: The Epidemic Idolatry of Christian People– Introduction: The Concept

Dear Friends,

I am in regular (almost daily) dialogue and “digital fellowship” with a satirical blog community known as “Stuff Christian Culture Likes.” I have been a regular commenter and theological voice in that community, off and on, for going on four years now. Over the course of this past year, being in dialogue with these brilliant people (people of whom I admit have a bit of a confrontational edge to them) has shown me many of the ethical blind spots I have as a privileged white male growing up in American Evangelical culture through teaching me about something they refer to as “rape logic.” After doing a bit of shallow research, I learned there is all sorts of material readily available that addresses “rape logic” and the “rape culture” it perpetuates. On the SCCL Facebook comment sections, “rape logic” is one of the most common gripes against Christian culture, and it is reoccuringly part of the major thrust of social criticism incumbent to the social values of the blog.

Over and over again in these conversations, I am faced with the testimonies of many women telling of how Christian culture has left them feeling ashamed of their bodies, conquered by the social bent of male-centrism in the Christian Church, and, thenceforth, blamed for the lustful power complexes of a Church culture that is both undeniably male-centric and, therefore, epidemically prone to “victim blaming” rather than Christian men owning responsibility for plunging the depths by which lust (and its father sin; power) have taken over the theological imagination of Christian living.

However, this letter is not entirely about these interactions. No. I write to you today concerning something I find to be far more wicked; something I feel deserves to be cast down into the pit of Hell it crawled up from; a demon to be driven into the bay of pigs to which Jesus damned it. It is epidemic in our churches and it is time the theological Powers that justify its cultural captivity were broken, disobeyed, and shown to be the evil theological narrative of depravity it is showing itself to be; because, as I will demonstrate, the horrific stories about these abuses (IE misunderstandings of “modesty,” “submission,” dominion, etc) are symptoms of a disease that is poisoning the theological imagination of the Church– something I am calling “rape theology.

To be clear, I am calling it “rape theology” so that I may add a third dimension to the discussion surrounding “rape logic” and “rape culture;” because, as a theologian, I believe that all ways of living are fundamentally birthed from the theological imagination. Therefore, I hold that “rape theology” is the theological root for the “rape logic” that has spread the “rape culture” epidemic in our American churches today. And so, I write to you today with a theological rebuke.

Therefore, being faced with the potential reality of this horrific theological epidemic, I have felt called to initiate a dialogue about “rape theology” (as I am conceptualizing it) so that the Church may give it a name and potentially cast it into Ghenna where it will hopefully stay for the remainder of Church history. And so, the remainder of this series of six letters will be dedicated to a three part case study in “rape theology” with the hopes that the depth by which it has grasped our theological imaginations will be put to a screeching halt as the Church continues its mission of being bearers of good news to the world.

I define “rape theology” this way:

Rape Theology: A gnostic thrust in Christian theology that justifies the rite of various (and idolatrous) power structures based upon an understanding of the Divine that manifests in terms of “rape logic” that, therein, facilitates the necessary environment for birthing a “rape culture.”

In my next letter I will begin my first case study on “rape theology” through exploring something I am calling “rape ontology.” Your presence would be appreciated as we explore and discuss this.

Be Powerless,

Bobby Ray