Update: Part 2 is up, engaging with the issue itself and The Gospel Coalition.
Fine… I’ll throw my two cents in.
A few days ago, Jared Wilson, trying to speak to the appeal of the S&M-tinged book 50 Shades of Grey, posted an excerpt from the book Fidelity (which I have read, so I feel I can speak to this) by the always-good-for-a-sound bite Douglas Wilson. Here’s how I’d summarize his ultimate point:
Modern humans have rebelled against God’s good and correct design of male authority and female submission to that authority. But, as people made in the Image of God, we have deep longings for the way God has structured reality to work best. And so, even when we reject God’s gracious version of gender relations, that desire is still there and will thus be corrupted and express itself in things like rape, pornography, and thinking things like 50 Shades of Grey is appealing.
I really don’t think either of them would think I am mischaracterizing them here. Both Wilsons involved in this equation clearly intended in their writing to promote what they believe is a beautiful synchronicity between male and female in which both fluorish.
…however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.
But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine….
True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.
Many, many people filled the comments on this post, horrified of what seemed like Douglas Wilson’s approval of “Sex as Conquering”. Jared and Douglas both also included comments in reply, and it eventually resulted in an entire follow-up post by Jared, as well as two explanatory posts (post 1, post 2) by Douglas on his blog, all reaffirming their commitment that they love and cherish women and don’t want to see them conquered.
I have a few thoughts that I hope will be helpful in this conversation. Today, I would like to talk to Jared, tomorrow I’ll respond a little more theologically to the point, and to The Gospel Coalition itself:
First, to Jared Wilson…
I really like Jared. He is a man that wants the Gospel to be at the center of all he says and does. I love his thoughts on writing and pursuing Christ. We have interacted on Twitter (and maybe even email a long time ago. I don’t remember). I respect him a lot.
Here’s a question for critics of the piece: You want these words not to mean a forceful, degrading domination of women, yes? And here is Wilson saying he does not mean them in that way. So why not accept that?
As a writer, you should know that if you write/post something with one intention, and the vast majority of people get a different sense, then the responsibility falls on the writer for not having communicated himself well in the first place. I know you posted a sort-of passive-aggressive post on authorial intent to get out of this, but I must admit, I don’t quite understand the outright anger you have towards these commenters. It seems like you are seeing right past what they are saying just as much as you claim they are doing that with you and Wilson (more on that tomorrow).
Further, as a man I’ve respected for being very generous, humble, pastoral, and even-handed, even with hard things, you must have known that this is a topic that people are passionate about. Surely you could have anticipated this response.
And even if not, and this was a genuine lapse on your part, then think of it as just that–a lapse in foresight on your part. We all write silly, whiny, or regrettable things on our blogs–it’s the nature of the medium. When we do that, we should not take ourselves so seriously, and then move on.
Really, I don’t understand your doubling-down on this so much. Admittedly, I didn’t read most of the comments people left, and some of them could have been pretty wicked to you, but the words you wrote in reply seemed more like exhausted, high-handed, defensiveness, rather than measured, calm, consideration.
I could be wrong, and I’m admittedly putting thoughts in your head and motives in your mouth, but I would still try and challenge you as a brother. (And frankly, the far more troublingly self-righteous, sarcastic and unloving response has come from Wilson’s own daughter–and he bragged about this post.)
I’m looking at your Twitter feed right now, and yeah, I can see some of the viciousness being directed at you. It’s pretty relentless. I’d be frustrated too. Jared, I can give you a pass on your humanness, but I’d encourage you, as a pastor and published author, to stop responding publicly, take a break from the web for a few days and just spend time with your family. (Ideally, I’d ask that you also take down the post and issue an apology, but that may be too much right now.)
In the end, I think you have an incredible opportunity to demonstrate a gospel response to such disagreement, laying aside your own (admittedly, quite personally) wounded pride, and lovingly responding to Christ’s Bride, who more or less seems to be crying out with one voice that they’ve been hurt by some words you said.
And being a Christian means that that’s okay. Demonstrate for us what your version of headship might look like by taking on some of the perceived injustice on yourself and turning it into something for our good, no matter how in the wrong you think many of us are.
This is bigger than your own conscience or a blog post. The world is watching how you and The Gospel Coalition reply to this. I wonder: what would a cruciform response to this look like?
I love you, brother, and am praying for you and your family.
[image credit: “Madeleine” by István Sándorfi]