Raise your hand. Have you ever been in the same room with white young evangelical males (considering my age, "young" is under forty) soaking up that John Howard Yoder's view of submission just needs some tweaking?
Have you ever been in the same room with these young men drinking the Yoderian kool-aid view of submission? Where they are offering no critical engagement with deep reflection on the crisis regarding evangelical male self-awareness and a Yoderian view of submission?
And, within the same room you witness that if there is any "conflict," appeals to submission based on aggressive Yoderian submission to Matt. 18 is the path to go out of patriarchy? Scary, scary thing, ladies (and men), especially for those of you who have had to deal with "sacred wounds."
This has been spiritual intimacy 101 in the evangelical church for centuries. Evangelical women are conditioned to be at home with male aggression in solving "conflicts" in the home, church, and culture--all with the background of Matthew 18 as justification for aggressive calls to "submit."
Matthew 18. It's one of the first places white male evangelical leaders who enthusiastically embrace a tweaked John Howard Yoder submission stake out for their privileged territory between submission as in putting oneself under the community versus a mutuality that fosters a healthy “with” mutuality in leadership.
In the year of 2009 I was on the verge of publishing a trailblazing book on spiritual intimacy between men and women. Dave Fitch and I should have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder in our opposition toward male-centered aggression using submission and Matt. 18.
But we ran into a deep, deep challenge in 2009. You know, after wholeheartedly participating in Dave’s church for the previous three years, I yearned for Dave’s validation of my provocative book. It was a book that challenged the deep roots of patriarchy.
But then I got clobbered by Matt. 18 and this tweaked interpretation of Yoderian “mutual submission” using Matt. 18 and 1 Cor. 9: 19-23. When I got clobbered (and totally caught off guard by the clobbering), I was told to read John Howard Yoder for understanding how submission is interpreted in the local church.
Now, you can ask anyone who knew me at the time. I knew my behaviors like going on canoe trips with my single female friend and posting pictures on FB were poking into entrenched areas of evangelical patriarchy and purity (no evangelical married man can have a close platonic friendship with a single woman).
I knew they were going to generate an ongoing mutual conversation between the leaders and myself but I was caught off-guard when I was clobbered by Yoderian appeals to submission to Matt. 18.
I had no credentials, no evangelical establishment behind me when I got clobbered. I was just a mere leader among leaders. I was an aspiring self-published author. Remember in my first post when I quoted from Faithful Presence that every leader is under the community? I was under his community.
Dave’s new book, Faithful Presence is his tweaked version of Yoderian “mutual submission” and the foundational passage is Matt. 18. Now, granted, I don’t expect this to go far. Dave has enormous power in his leadership as a white-male led evangelical institution at Northern Seminary and he much power with Missio Alliance as a leading voice.
Ever since 2009, I have wondered about if Dave had some mutually intimate friendships with women, if he would still hold to a tweaked version of Yoder’s “mutual submission.” I did mention in my first post in this series that the book is missing an eighth chapter: the discipline of mutual intimate friendship.
Healthy intimate friendships (same-sex or cross-sex) are never about one friend under another friend. Not at the beginning. Not in the middle. Not in the long term.
Do you know what happens in healthy, flourishing friendships? Friends are attuned to a full range of relational beauty! Friends recognize the full and deep range of other's gifts. Friends can be attuned to each other's weaknesses. They are attuned to one another's burdens. They are capable of sharing life, sharing possessions, sharing a common vision for deep beauty and Gospel goodness—all out of a freedom, not out of anxious pressure to be “under.” In a community of friends, there is no one "under" one another.
Friends can offer a non-anxious presence that is fully present with one another. So can each leader seeking the presence of God through the discipline of friendship. Isn’t the world aching for this kind of mutuality in our churches? In our cities?
I cannot, for the life of me, imagine the pain and anguish of Rosa Parks (or any trailblazing woman or man) who would be clobbered by Matt. 18 with a tweaked Yoderian view of mutual submission once she crossed social boundaries and sat on the seat. That she would be required to go through a long drawn out process of Matthew 18. And, as Dave asserts, in our submission, no one seeking to win, no one with agendas as they “submit.”
I can’t imagine the pain and anguish of a Larycia Hawkins being clobbered by such a view. So I explored the trailblazer question in my first post. Talk about the need for breathing space, oh my goodness!
If word gets back to Dave (I don’t expect him to read this post) about this, I am open for correction if I get this wrong. At one point in 2009 in a personal conversation, Dave said something to me like this, “I could agree with ninety percent of the content of your book, but the issue is are you going to submit your book to the church?”
As much as I deeply respected Dave Fitch at the time, I could not fathom how a tweaked Yoderian view of aggressive submission using Matt. 18 as a clobber verse would help mutually intimate friendships between men and women in the church. I mean, you know, it’s John Howard Yoder’s view of submission! My book was never about Yoder’s view of submission as the heart of male-female friendships!!!
What the world needs now is evangelical male leaders who are appealing for calls to “submission” to work hard at a deep knowledge of self-awareness when it comes to close relationships.
The Yoderian view submission is at the heart of how Dave interprets Matthew 18 and how he uses it in leadership. Now this is the $64,000 question. When do male-privileged calls for submission loaded with language about self-denial become white male entitlement? Privileged power over men and women who don’t fall in line with Yoderian submission?
Dave writes, “As we submit to his presence there, we are realigned into his reign. Our submission to Jesus spreads out into mutual submission to one another. And a new social order is birthed out of this, which is nothing less than his kingdom.”
This is true for all female trailblazers, pioneers, and prophets. For Rosa Parks, Brené Brown, Joan Chittister, Rachel Held Evans, Larycia Hawkins, they all are required in this system to “submit” to Yoderian submission for a new social order.
I will stop here. To be continued. We need a meta-conversation about how males aggressively use Matthew 18 to solve conflicts in homes, churches, and culture.