The Unfundamental Conversion

Fundie Family Wedding

July 29th, 2013 | Posted by Lana Hope in Fundamental/Evangelical | Spiritual Abuse

A family member got married this weekend. I’ll call her Sarah.

ring / yüzük
Caucas’ / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

I cried at Sarah’s wedding. I cried because her husband is a much more decent guy than I would expect in our extended family. I cried because I cannot make sense of how much “God” is thrown out as a means to cover up the dysfunction of my family. I also cried because the preacher who married them harped on the word “submission” in his little speech.

The preacher talked about the word submission over and over again. I got sick, listening, eternalizing. I wanted to plug up my ears because it was breaking my heart.

Then Sarah had to promise to submit in her wedding vowels.

I cried. The tears flowed, one by one.

Normally I just get angry when I hear Ephesians 5 sermons and lose an afternoon screaming “why church, why? Why do you have to suppress women in Jesus’ name?” But at the wedding this weekend I just cried.

Sarah had to promise to submit. Her husband did not.

I cried because I’m so dang sick of it all. I’m hurt. I’m tired. I’m so tired of hearing how I’m the weaker sex (which one of my uncles apparently said this weekend). I’m so tired of hearing how I need to submit. I’m so tired of hearing “the Bible says so.”

I’m so tired of hearing my mother say, “it’s okay. Just go along with the flow.” How it is okay? How is it okay that we have to hear that we need to submit all the time? How is it okay that a preacher can start a great couple off on the wrong path, by pointing them on a route which I already know first hand leads to failure? How is it okay?

How is it okay that women are abused in the name of such theology? How is it okay that other women like me have to hear about submission? How is it okay that the pastor felt the need to talk to Sarah about this – and make her promise – in the short cermony?

I’m so tired. I’m so tired of the hurts in my heart. I can’t even enjoy weddings. I hate weddings thanks to fundamentalism. The girl has to smile. The girl is given away. By her father. The girl has to walk down the isle in a white dress and parade her virginity.

I’m so tired because sexism in the church is alive and well, and at family weddings, I feel so ever alone. Everyone is so content in it. And I’m so hurt.

The church leaves me trembling. Alone.

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  • This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

    This whole topic, which I see a-plenty in the religious “blogosphere,” upsets me immensely and perhaps indeed in a complicated way: so much so that I hardly ever comment on it. As an Orthodox Christian, I have no issue with a reading from Ephesians in a wedding service. Indeed the marital section of Ephesians 5 is read at every Orthodox wedding, but show me any of the countless Orthodox couples I know, and I’ll show you a couple where the wife is absolutely not abused or in any way under the yoke of her husband. That passage from the Apostle Paul, as my own Church, I’m glad to say, recognizes, shows as the model for a Christian marriage the relationship of Christ and His Church. That any minister or denomination presents it as a rule for men to dominate their wives (and I have learned in the last year or so that this is far more a problem than I had ever bothered to consider) is outrageous and un-Christian.

    The chapter begins with remarks about how Christ (the model of the husband) was a sacrifice to His Church out of love. It’s also interesting that, when the Apostle Paul talks explicitly about the roles of wives and husbands, he says considerably more to the husbands than he does to the wives. If one looks at any other passage concerning wives and husbands in his epistles, one likewise finds that for every instruction of submission to a wife, he gives instruction of loving care to the husband.

    Does Christ oppress His Church? No, really. Does Christ present a model of authoritarian dominance? We’re not talking about Divine Judgment against schismatics or apostates or heretics. How is Christ to His Church? It is a fair question, since it is, after all, the Ephesians model for the relationship of husband to wife. Is Christ not loving to His Church? Does He not, as a husband ought to his wife, love the Church as His own body?

    The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. I Corinthians 7:4. Emphasis added.

    Anyway, I just typed and deleted a paragraph and a half of more personal remarks. No sense in clogging your comment space. In any event, this whole thing upsets me a great deal. I’m sorry that the wedding was a bit soured for you, and I’m sorry that so much of Christendom has no idea how the [expletive] to interpret Scripture but, rather, twists it into something that causes so much sorrow.

    • Oh, well I guess my emphasis wasn’t added. I tried to boldface part of that one quote. Perhaps for the best: I was getting a bit too strident anyway. 😉

      • Lana Hope

        It’s okay to leave me long comments. I read every bit. I don’t disagree with you on what you said thus far. But in the church experiences I’ve had, I haven’t seen them get Ephesians 5 right. It’s not that they justify abuse so much as their theology of submission leads to justifying abuse instead of preaching about loving each other as Christ did us.

        • Well, and I didn’t especially expect that what I did post in my comment would be too controversial here. Kind of felt like that old saying about preaching to the choir. The additional remarks I decided to elide were more personal: idiosyncratic, even. You ended your post with remarks about feeling alone, and that too is something I see in much of the commentary of those who have broken away (to one degree or another) from false theologies and cruel churches–and something I have seen in those who haven’t the whatever-it-might-take to escape. It’s also something I may feel a touch of from time to time. So, being no stranger to sorrow, I was tempted to make my remarks a bit more personal, but I decided against it. I don’t really think it would do me any good, and I don’t think it would serve your page all that happily either.

          In any event, I am sorry that you’ve had to live with these sorts of things. I was a bit jocular in my comment on your last post, but I take these things seriously. No doubt online friends of yours more qualified than I to commiserate on this will stop by, but I thought I’d chime in with a bit of my layman’s exegesis. Those passages by the Apostle Paul are actually quite excellent writings, and yet they are prooftexted and transformed into something painful.

          • Lana Hope

            Thank you for the encouragement, so much so. This is an opportunity for me to talk to God about this.

        • Christine

          “But in the church experiences I’ve had, I haven’t seen them get Ephesians 5 right”

          This is the reason we didn’t use it at our wedding. We read through it while going through the list of suggested readings, and we agreed that it’s beautiful, it fit with the theme that we had chose for the wedding, and was not something that we were at all willing to have read at the wedding, because of all the baggage that it carries around with it. We would have meant what we said, but we were worried that other people would have heard things we didn’t say, that a lot of people would have meant, and assumed that they were what we were trying to say.

        • Cassie

          I promised my wife tiffany that i would never leave her because the preacher at my church who was catholic like me told her she had to submit to me but i enturrupted anf told her i submitt to her too. Preachers jaw dropped like the opening of a whales mouth. I dont want to share what took place after that. I have some understanding and aggreement what blog says but i too see that we have women being steireio typed by others and i believe God made adam and eve to submitt to each other. My thoughts

  • Lana, I think it’s interesting how many Orthodox followers you have! In the Orthodox church the bride and groom walk into the church together, where they are received by their church family (interestingly their biological families don’t have any greater prominence than anyone else). No-one “gives you away”, you are there by your own volition (this is important because there are no vows in the ceremony). Everything that happens or is said to the bride, also happens and is said to the groom.
    The bride and groom have crowns placed on or over their heads, but this is to signify not only that the bride and groom, in their union with Christ, participate in His Kingship; but also that they are crowns of martyrdom. Personally, I think it’s no bad thing to be reminded that any decent marriage is going to involve a fair amount of compromise, but the point that I’m making is that it is absolutely equivocal to both the bride and the groom. The Greek Orthodox crowns are usually made out of flower wreaths and the Russian Orthodox crowns are more like you would imagine a traditional fairy-tale crown, but they are invariably the same size. And during part of the ceremony they are swapped over on the couples heads, so that each wears the other’s crown of both glory and martyrdom (the husband is sanctified by the wife, and the wife is sanctified by the husband – 1 Corinthians 7:14). And at the end of the service, the couple are greeted anew as a new unit by their church family, again neither receives more prominence. Also, Russian brides tend to wear red, as it’s royal colour, rather than white (maybe we’re less bothered by virginity?).
    Anyway, my point was that all of the “submission” stuff is very new and culturally specific, not necessarily Christian. Personally, I recommend making the next wedding you attend an Orthodox one! Here’s some photos of mine:

    And, lastly, my friend’s joke:
    Q: Why is there no sex allowed at Southern Baptist weddings?
    A: It might lead to dancing!

    • Thanks for the pictures! I had now idea, wow! Yes, you have it. Marriage is compromise, but in realistic terms (as almost everyone can agree) that it involves two people giving and taking (or even more when you consider kids wishes into many family decisions). I think most people know this – they just don’t always preach it, sadly. I’m going to try to visit the Orthodox church when I move in a month (no Orthodox churches near here).

      P.S. I have been to Buddhist weddings, though. Talk about completely different.

  • Last time I attended a Christian wedding, I gripped the pew in front of me the entire time, just to stop myself from running out.

    I honestly don’t know people can defend the “wives submit” teaching by saying God made us “different but equal”. How do they keep a straight face?

    And why is it that in so many of the homes where this is taught, the wives actually appear to dominate their husbands?

    • Thank you, Jonny. This preacher said they are equal, and I was thinking how?

  • I listened to my fundamentalist friends review and practice their vows and was interested to note an addition I had not previously heard after ’till-death-do-us-part’… or until the second coming of Christ. I thought it was funny to call out “I am here!”

    I was wrong.

    It has been very interesting and revealing to watch this couple struggle through decades of marriage trying to cope with challenges in their lives by trying to use an archaic and inherently unequal but pious blueprint at home but put aside at work or in public. It’s like trying to lead double lives that does not yield a well-tempered relationship but adds additional stress and difficulties to an otherwise stressful and difficult life together. By comparison, those marriages I know based on two autonomous individuals choosing to come together and live as one have far less stress and difficulty coping with significant challenges. And my spouse, who coordinates hospice care for our city, sees the same increased difficulties to cope well repeatedly in pious families with set gender roles (of different faiths and sects) far more and to a much greater negative effect than in non religious ones faced with the same kinds of harsh realities. Of course, we don’t usually hear how typical this is but are regularly bombarded with messages that religious belief is a comfort in times of trials and tribulations. Once again, I find reality does not match up well to religious assertions. But it makes sense that marriages where both spouses are full and equal partners are fully capable of being able to respond appropriately to these sudden changes with maturity and wisdom versus marriages with expectations of gender-based roles thrown into chaos with sudden change in health and capability. This is another case in a long line of hidden costs and real harm accrued from adhering to religious beliefs.

  • You were wrong about one thing.
    You’re not alone.
    I hope the pain eases up for you, but in the mean time, you give voice to others who are in pain.

    I recently wrote about a Muslim wedding I attended in Qatar. Talk about different!

    • Lana Hope

      Retwitted. Thanks for sharing (and also the encouragement). That rocks. Attending a wedding in SE Asia blew my mind like that too.

  • Anonymous

    i think you’ll like this. (i may have posted it in a comment on your blog before. if so, sorry for the repeat):

    Joyfully Subversive – redux

    So There I Was…
    Helping a wedding happen. It is a thing that I enjoy.

    Everything was going well. The guests were steadily arriving at the family farm. The bridal party was all accounted for and dressed in their finery. The flower covered wooden arch was ready. I was out among the guests greeting people and watching for that moment when it would be time to gather the groom, cue the musicians, and start the proceedings.

    A small girl tweaked my radar. She was examining the wedding cake at very close range. She was clearly dealing with the temptation to put just one finger into the icing. She was leaning up on the table. I engaged her in conversation and reminded her of the funny videos where people knock over the cake table at a wedding. She wisely eased back a bit.

    She was about eight. Long brown hair and very blue eyes magnified by thick glasses. She was wearing a dress imprinted with Disney princesses. It was clear that she was all into the wedding thing.

    We talked about how soon the wedding would start, where the bride was ‘hiding’, and when the cake would be cut. We looked over the guests together.

    “I wonder which one is the preacher?”

    “Ah, that would be me.”

    She looked up at me, mouth open, she pushed her glasses up her nose.

    “But you’re a girl!”

    “Yep” I said, not correcting the girl/woman thing.

    “I’ve never seen a girl preacher!”

    “Look all you want, baby – sometimes – God asks girls to be preachers.”

    “Not at MY church.”

    “What church do you go to?’ She named a large Conservative denomination.

    “Ah, well, there are lots of churches and some of them, like mine, think everybody can preach. I am a Quaker.”

    “A Quaker” she said, like it tasted funny but not all bad in her mouth.

    We talked a little more about God, and what God might ask you to do, and then it was time to start the wedding.

    Later, over cake, I asked her what she thought of the wedding, and how it looked with a girl preacher.

    “It was nice, you did a good job, you talk read loud, and the cake is good. Do you really have a church or do you just do weddings, my mom said you probably just do weddings?”

    “I really have a church. Nice folks. Probably a bit different than your church. Someday, you should come visit.”

    She looked up at me,
    pushed her glasses up her nose again, pursed her lips.

    “I think I would like that – a church where God talks to girls”

    pic of the little girl and preacher at:
    and, not wedding related, but also empowering for women:

  • Imagine what kind of message that sent to the bride, to the women in general in the audience. It must have been deflating to any women with self-respect.

    The whole male headship model is nonsense. I have no patience for people who try to sugar-coat it by saying that the husband is expected to love his wife. It’s still unequal, and that’s unfair.

    • Lana Hope

      Me either, Ahab. I’m just so freakin’ sick of it all.

  • My wife and I both came from families that were evangelical, and then dabbled in Christian Patriarchy for a while. My wife’s family was much more deeply involved, and she bears more scars than I do from those times.

    Anyway, perhaps this will at least make you smile, and give some hope that the wedding isn’t the final word on the issue.

    By the time my wife and I were planning our wedding, I had already lived on my own for several years, and had had a bit of a break with my family and the Patriarchy philosophy. So I was much further along the journey away from that view of gender roles than she was. We were going over different options for our vows, and my wife insisted on promising to obey me. I didn’t really feel the need, as I never intended to hold her to that. But, being a good egalitarian, I let her have her way…

    • Lana Hope

      My mom told it was a typical vow, but I have not been aware of it outside conservative circle. But then again, all of the US weddings I’ve been to have been Christian.

      • Christine

        I’ve never heard “submit” in a vow, but I know that “obey” is/was common enough that the RCC has a specific rule against it being included.

        • Lana Hope

          Well I’d say that’s the same thing, only worse. Pretty insane. And that word isn’t even in the Bible.

          • Christine

            After reading Libby’s discussions of Created To Be His Helpmeet, I’m less sure about that. At least “obey” allows you to do it with a grimace, and hating him in your heart. But yeah, it’s messed up.

          • Lana Hope

            LOL. That’s a good point. Submission is not because you have to but because you want to….or so the story goes.

  • Oh, and we definitely have an egalitarian marriage. It just worked better that way for us. She is intelligent and has good judgment, and doesn’t need to be led. We both like coming to mutual solutions anyway. We each take turns being the stronger spouse when the other is tired or feeling weaker.

    And, I have never once asked her to obey me. Except as a joke to get a smile.

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  • Rob

    I would have gotten upset too.

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