One might think the world was practically collapsing the way the news reported the activities of the Southern Baptist Convention.
On the top of its front page The New York Times revealed that the Southern Baptists had adopted an amendment declaring that a woman "should submit herself graciously" to her husband's leadership and that a husband should "provide for, protect and lead his family." This was followed by breathless reports on newscasts and scornful commentators venting on talk shows.I am not a Baptist, but I find it fascinating that when it comes to religion, contempt from our elites is reserved for traditional and biblically based views. Denominations or religious movements that advocate women in the clergy, gay marriage or New Age ideas that re-create God in man's image rarely elicit anything but positive comments from these same people. Such ideas are usually seen as progressive, tolerant and welcome. In fact, these days just about any religious view is perfectly acceptable except orthodox Christianity or traditional Judaism.
I can respect tremendous religious differences between people who honestly seek to know: Is there a God of the universe, and is the Bible his word? Is it trustworthy? If so, what does it teach about how I am to act and govern my life? I do not mean that if another person and I have truly different views about a religious matter or interpretation of scripture, we can both be "right" as long as we truly believe it. Obviously, that is not the case (though we could both be wrong.) I only mean that I can respect a person who is searching to know God and his rule.
But I cannot respect someone who uses a man-made God to make a rule that suits himself.
It seems to me this latter purpose is too often the case today among those people who seek dramatic change in traditional biblical theology. Bishop John Spong, for instance, a high-ranking and influential Episcopal cleric, has just written his 16th book "Why Christianity Must Change or Die." Though he represents an extreme, he reflects a broad movement that seeks, as he notes, to redefine everything from Christ's resurrection, to the fall of Adam and Eve to the hope of life after death. He says he would choose to loathe rather than to worship a deity who required the sacrifice of his son. God, he says, is "a presence discovered in the very depths of my life, in the capacity to live, in the ability to love, in the courage to be."
If here he were speaking objectively of the work of a God who might have created him, he would have a point. But he is clearly not interested in seeking out the true God, come what may then for John Spong. He is interested only in creating his own God to suit John Spong's interests.
I can't imagine there is a lot of comfort in praying to that!
So back to the Southern Baptist Convention and the specifics of what's causing all the fuss. The passage of scripture the Baptists cite to support their view of the proper relationship between husbands and wives also instructs a husband to love his wife as Christ himself loved his church - in fact, to be willing to die for her. And, we can easily infer then, to live for her and be willing to put her and his family's interests and well-being before his own. I don't hear much feminist grousing about that part of the scripture! And anyway, is the idea of families made up of such men, and wives lovingly looking up to them, really so awful?
Well, for some folks, maybe it is. And maybe that's part of the reason that these days we're told we have to be tolerant of everybody - except folks who hold such views.