I know Dave did not want to be a spiritual bully over me. I know he did not want to step into my boat and take over my steering part of our togetherness to resolve a conflict. I know he did not intend to objectify me.
Male aggression in resolving conflicts, male privilege over intimate relationships, privileged biblicism, patriarchy—these are all privileged communal dynamics in the evangelical world. There is nothing like mutual pleasure, mutual empowerment, mutual discernment within cross-gender friendships that threatens those dynamics.
That’s what I learned in 2009.
I did not have the language for it then, but now looking back on it, at least part of my spiritual wrestling match with Dave for four plus months in 2009 spilling over into 2010 was over his privileged biblicism over me.
It was not the way of Jesus.
Mutual pleasure, mutual empowerment, mutual discernment within the practice of Jesus-centered cross-gender friendship can call for deeper human caring, connection, and fullness. When cross-gender friendships cross over the private-public domain of male-centered Christendom it disrupts and unnerves social order in the big boat of togetherness.
Let's continue into our next part in this series I am doing on David Fitch's new book, Faithful Presence, shall we?
Author and theologian Peter Enns defines biblicism as, “the tendency to appeal to individual biblical verses, or collections of (apparently) uniform verses from various parts of the Bible, to give the appearance of clear, authoritative, and final resolutions to what are in fact complex interpretive and theological issues generated by the fact that we have a complex and diverse Bible."
You know privileged biblicism is the huge evangelical conversation. Scot McKnight recently spent several more blogs on the issue.
Is it possible to sort out the unhealthy fusion of patriarchy, privileged biblicism, and male aggression? It's easy for some egalitarians or “mutualists” to say they are not a patriarchalist just like some white folk say they are not racists. But what happens when mutual empowerment, mutual pleasure, mutual discernment within Jesus-centered cross-gender friendship disrupts social order out in social media? Out in the public square?
Back in 2009 I was quoted Matthew 18:1-:20, 1 Corinthians 9: 15-23, and Acts 15:18 as a clear reading by Dave on why I was told I needed to surrender my book publishing, possibly give up cross-gender friendships, and why I needed to submit his system against my consent to a Matthew 18 process of resolving a conflict.
“We will stay at this mutual dialogue in mutual submission until all parties are satisfied that Christ Jesus has been followed and submitted to as Lord.” (pg 73, Faithful Presence).
But part of what Dave doesn't reveal in an earlier book or in this one: the power act that’s in this system of “mutual submission” because of his “clear” privileged biblicism. So, that went like this for me: first, he can seize power over me in his system of mutual submission, and then, he can listen to my concerns, my complaints, my dissent, my healthy skepticism, and my distracting agendas.
I mean, let's be clear about this: I wholeheartedly believe this kind of high-pressured insistence on a “clear” application of these texts toward conflict would be approved by evangelical pastors like John MacArthur, John Piper, Jerry Falwell Jr., and Mark Driscoll.
This is what privileged biblicism “under” submission in male-centered Christendom looks like, feels like, smells like. Spiritual bullying in the name of submission.
I suggest high pressure, one-way submission spiritual wrestling matches in the name of a “clear” application of a few select verses beginning with Matthew 18 ought to guide us into asking deeper questions about male leaders invoking aggression.
I suppose it is theoretically possible to separate privileged biblicism from evangelical patriarchy.
But when male aggression is used to resolve conflict in the name of submission to restore immediate “order,” then how can male spiritual bullying not be on the table? This is when Missio Alliance looks almost identical with the Gospel Coalition. Old evangelical established power coming from white-male led institutions.
I keep on mentioning the women who have become nones, dones, or end up in therapy. What happens to women trailblazers who get caught up in this power-over privileged biblicism?
What happens to women (and men) caught up in this “rule-bound” togetherness in the name of “mutual submission” that is grounded in a “clear trajectory” of these biblical verses? Is this the spiritual maturity we want the world to see? Male aggression resolving conflicts over patriarchal anxiety?
When we turn to how men and women who share Jesus-centered friendship in leadership, we discover constructive movement toward mutual discernment. With men and women as Jesus-centered friends in the practice of mutual discernment there is mutual compassion, mutual courage, mutual vulnerability, and mutual transformation.
Each leader has a separate boat committed to togetherness. Differentiated friendship.
No one is seeking to be “over” another friend. No one is bullying their friend to be “under” one another for the sake of the Gospel. As my friend, pastor and author Kathy Escobar observes, “Friendship diffuses power. Issues around power cause all kinds of problems...friendship levels the playing field and how we practice to be with each other, shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, eye to eye, face to face.”
Healthy intimate life among Jesus-centered friends is not about aggression to solve conflicts.