A brand over 2000 years in the making
by David Atkins
Everyone is talking about this little misogynistic gem today:
A Republican member of Congress says in a recently released book that a wife is to "voluntarily submit" to her husband, but that it doesn't make her inferior to him.The standard analysis is to point out that Republicans still have problems with women, that their attempt to rebrand is a hilarious disaster, etc.
Rep. Steve Pearce's (R-N.M.) memoir, "Just Fly the Plane, Stupid!" was released last month. Its publication -- and his acknowledgment in the book of the controversial nature of the submission debate -- come as the Republican Party reevaluates how it talks to and about women.
In the book, Pearce recounts his rise to owning an oil-field service company and winning election to Congress. In the book, the Vietnam War veteran says that both the military chain of command and the family unit need a structure in which everyone plays his or her role.
He said that, in his family's experience, this meant that his wife, Cynthia, would submit to him and he would lead.
"The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice," he writes, citing the Bible. "The husband’s part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else."
Pearce, who is Baptist, emphasizes repeatedly in the chapter that submission doesn't mean inferiority but rather that husbands and wives play different roles. He also says it doesn't mean his wife doesn't have a say in major decisions.
"The wife’s submission is not a matter of superior versus inferior; rather, it is self-imposed as a matter of obedience to the Lord and of love for her husband," he writes.
But that's being just a little cute, isn't it? It's de rigueur to make fun of the Republican Party for this stuff, without offending anyone's religious sensibilities by pointing out the obvious: that he's only quoting the Bible. And not the brutal adultery-stoning Old Testament of Leviticus, but the "nice" New Testament in Ephesians. Specifically Ephesians 5:22-25:
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.Making fun of Republicans for failing to "rebrand" is gratifying. But this is a brand 2000 years in the making. It's hard to call oneself a believing Christian without embracing this sort of antediluvian misogyny. It's right there in the text.
Perhaps it's time to get honest as a society about the value of using 2000-year-old texts as a basis for social or scientific policy at all, instead of cherrypicking the parts that seem socially unacceptable at the current moment.