Perhaps I'm just getting old. I did turn 40 last week. But I must admit, my first read of Jared Wilson's now infamous post, "The Polluted Waters of 50 Shades of Grey, Etc.," didn't outrage me. It didn't even offend me. It did, however, confuse and creep me out.
On his personal blog at The Gospel Coalition's website, Jared ran the cold-shower-of-an excerpt from Doug Wilson's 13-year-old book, Fidelity: What It Means to Be A One-Woman Man, where Doug writes, "true authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity."
[Note: Due to the overzealous reproductive nature of the Wilsons in this world, for the purposes of this post, CT will break from its usual style of using last names in citation and instead will be using first names to distinguish between Jared Wilson and Doug Wilson, who, as a commenter pointed out, are unrelated.]
The real tweetable line was Doug's description of love-making. "A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants," Doug wrote. "A woman receives, surrenders, accepts."
Lovely. If only we could put that to music.
It all culminated with this line from Doug: "However we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party." Combine sex, gender debates, 50 Shades of Grey, and you have a recipe for an Internet explosion.
Despite Doug and sex and pleasure parties, I couldn't generate personal outrage. My ick-tank was full, and I was done with the whole thing. Of course, unless you've been hiding in an e-cave, you know that the Internet was far from done.
A day or so later, we read Rachel Held Evans' take on Jared's post. I realized I had missed so many of the fine points she raised, and thought, Ah, to be young and outraged again!
Indeed, Doug's sexual conquest language is troubling, especially considering what Paul says. "The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband," Paul writes. "In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife." And yet Doug's image of sex could be read as men are monster-esque and women helpless fools. Sex is a realm of God's kingdom deserving redemption.
A key issue raised by Held Evans and others includes attention given the countless women who have suffered sexual abuse or been raped in their churches, in their families, in their marriages and had it "justified" through a twisted theology of sex. Doug's words are not only confusing but potentially damaging. But so is the fallout from all of this. TGC has updated the top of the original post to reflect the following warning:
"[TRIGGER WARNING]: The content of this post (and resulting comments) contains language and imagery that may be sensitive or harmful to victims of sexual abuse or rape."
In true Internet fashion, the conversation has gone off-the rails. There are the fury of comments, Twitter a'flitter and Facebook on fire. We've had follow-ups and clarifications. We've had angry rebuttals from daughters. We've had the chiming in of other bloggers, of noted theologians. We have me, writing now.
Through all this, almost certainly, there have been hurt feelings, wounded egos, broken hearts, and crushed spirits. Even when it's the e-Kingdom and the e-Body, surely, Imago Dei applies to our avatars too.
But unlike many, I don't consider flare-ups like this to be a call to unity—at least not in opinion or even mission. Diversity of thought, of opinion, of points of view can be healthy within the Christian theological framework. I'm not sure that we should—even if disagree with the content or form of the messages—be inundating The Gospel Coalition (TGC) with petitions demanding the removal the post. In the same way, I don't believe those who disagree with Evans (and believe you me, there are many!) should be petitioning Thomas Nelson asking them to stop publication of her upcoming book.
Jared's blog, after all, is his own personal blog, simply hosted on TGC's network. It's not as easy as one, two, three, delete! Like Patheos, TGC and any other blog network has its own set of rules and standards but that don't reflect necessarily on everyone else in the group. TGC is no church, no denomination, no pulpit. It's a network and you can take it or leave it. No one is forcing something upon anyone.
Shutting each other down or shutting each other up should never be the goal among Christians. If we are going to love one other, we need to challenge and sharpen one another with a spirit above the Internet rage, a spirit of mercy that assumes the best intentions of even those who offend or outrage us. That assumes that other Christians are only trying to live out the gospel as they see it, to speak as they've been called to. With a spirit of charity, we must recognize that poor word choices don't a vicious-oppressor-of-women make; just as honest objections to those poor word choices don't deserve threats of physical violence. We must challenge and confront with a spirit of grace that understands that we are all broken, all wounded, all getting so much of this life just plain wrong. After all, we're all naughty by nature (original sin, anyone?), whether we're down with egalitarian sex or not.