Friday, February 10, 2023

Powerful Books and Marriage Minutes

When I started writing this blog, I hoped to change the problem of spiritual and related domestic abuse in certain Evangelical churches. I didn't think I'd manage to do much. Still, I felt responsible for doing what I could to voice my experiences and offer some good reasons and resources to help people reconsider allegedly Christian ideas that both actively and passively facilitated these abuses. 

I had not yet processed how poorly I fit into the Presbyterian belief system, and my husband and I figured that the intense focus on authority in the churches was limited to the few we'd attended. We had no idea then that this elder-heavy trend existed outside of them and involved organizations that promoted female submission.

I felt strongly that a circumspect reading of the Bible itself already presented the best argument against abuse, so for my first three years of blogging, I read books that promoted the abuse of women so I could critique them. In 2010 when I did start reading books from the egalitarian genre, I focused on ones that concerned the practical problems of women.

The books discussing the functional problems women face because of the patriarchal agenda elucidate Biblical arguments in support of egalitarianism, and I'm glad they do. I'm glad that other people follow their callings to address the many aspects and nuances of the discussion, but I'm not at all eager to engage in some of it. I'm engaged by the stuff that explains to people that the Bible does not support abuse, how to peg teachings that do as the Traditions of Men (Mark 7:7-13), and how to transcend them. 

But the exciting thing about all that? We are all in process, so we are all transcending. No one of us has arrived, though many people have truly mastered topics and disciplines. While I blogged often, I was changing and growing through the things I read and my experience, and that process continues in me. Christians should be mortifying their flesh daily, renewing their minds, so transformation at work (Rom 12:2).

The Power of Growth

Last year, Shirley Taylor released a new title called The Power of a Book which I bought and have not yet read, but I keep seeing its title on my Kindle. I love and am inspired by the title, just like I am by Shirley who I'm blessed to know in person and over more than a decade. She didn't set out writing books, and a friend took her material from her blog and put together the first one that is now in its second edition:  Denthroning Male Headship. (I still think she shakes her head at me, wondering why I caution that ideas like male headship within the pale of orthodoxy that other Christians hold should be respected even though I oppose the abuse of the concept.)

I don't know what drew my attention to this little chain of connection between people, ideas, and books this past week, perhaps because Shirley's red book caught my eye. Her books are more like signing with the choir because we are engaged with much of the same content and share many beliefs. She and I don't always agree, though when I read something that she's written that I understand differently, it's always an invitation for me to think and a challenge to either hone or adjust my beliefs. 

Isn't that really the whole purpose of a good book and the true power of a book? It's an invitation to stretch and refine your own perspective.

I found myself thinking about the books that had the greatest impact on me. So much of what I've read takes a topic and breaks it down as it builds toward a viewpoint that fosters positive change.


I also saw a penguin video this week which I shared with Gerald Ford and his wife because I know they love penguins. He is a retired pastor and credentialed counselor, and I reviewed his Marriage Minutes book here a few years ago. Gerald takes 200 of what are almost newspaper columns that he wrote and assembles them topically into a very readable book about what he calls a "collaborative marriage" for Christians. 

So many Christians want to know what kind of marriage I have, declaring themselves to have a Biblical, covenant, egalitarian, or another type of marriage. I never know how to answer. My husband and I are partners with equal voices who take care of each other. As eccentric people in our own right as individuals, I suppose it's fitting that I don't know what to say to folks who expect me to define us by some specific marriage type. Gerald says that he intended Marriage Minutes for people who don't "fit the mold."

Each one of the pages discusses some issue faced by a couple in marriage, concisely explaining how they resolved things or worked together to overcome a particular challenge in everyday life. The healthy dynamics of mutual love and care shine through, though the principles of how to have a healthy relationship as a couple aren't approached like one might expect to find in a book by a therapist. The concepts emerge very spontaneously, and Gerald uses the vignettes to point out those concepts. Scripture also bubbles up spontaneously through the scenarios, and the principles of the Word are like the unspoken structure that undergirds it all.

Unequally Yoked by NakedPastor

A friend of mine is in a new relationship, which also made me think about Marriage Minutes. She mentioned NakedPastor's recent post on social media that contrasts two couples. The Christian couple who were "properly equally yoked" depict a very difficult marriage. My Christian friend, widowed by her late Christian husband, felt like her marriage was far more like the troubled relationship. She wants to avoid that in her new relationship that is just unfolding.

I said to her, "This is weird, but I keep thinking that you'd really like this book that's been on my mind. Do you care if I buy you a copy?"

She said she'd like to read it and had been wondering about something like this to generate discussion with her new love interest.

And then, I decided that of all the books I've read promoting egalitarianism, Marriage Minutes had the most significant and lasting impact on me.  I didn't expect that. It puts hands and feet on material I've studied in Scripture and in writings about emotional healing and healthy growth. I'm excited to see if reading it helps my friend heal from the past as she moves into a new and better future which I hope is true for us all.

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The next book on my list that I suspect will be similar but for different reasons in a different way is Fixed It for You. I haven't read any of the author's previous books, but I like her "fixed" statements when I see them bouncing around on social media.