Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Power of Love

If I were to use this blog to lament and ridicule the hurtful and stupid things Christians say I would be both overworked and, ultimately, self-defeating. Besides, theology -- if we can be generous enough to attach that label to some of the stuff on this blog -- is done rightly as a joyous, imaginative and creative work. Of course that doesn't mean we don't have to say "Nein!" from time to time, but only by way of underlining the "Ja!".

One such "No" goes to Douglas Wilson, who wrote the following some years ago (which was quoted with appreciation on a blog by Jared Wilson and with anger and lament on a blog by Rachel Held Evans):

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, 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.

I think that qualifies as both hurtful and stupid, though I'm sure I know some people who'd be interested to hear more about this "egalitarian pleasuring party". Where? When? Should they bring anything?

Anyway, what interested me about Rachel Held Evans's response was her conclusion: this is about power. Not sex. Power.

I disagree. I think it's very much about sex. Of course we can't reduce everything to the outworking of some Freudian libido or Nietzschean will to power. So I suppose it is really more a "both/and". (It's razor sharp analysis like this that keeps people coming back for more.)

The same holds true for rape. Is rape about power? Absolutely. And it is also about sex. It is about a particular body that has been formed to derive pleasure from a violent, sexual act. The rapist has to be aroused. Not by an abstract entity called "power", but by the act, by the situation, by the body of the particular victim.

The separation of agape and eros has been a theological blunder of epic proportions in Western theology. I think it's a similar mistake to separate dynamis/exousia and eros, especially when we consider that God's power is never anything but desire, love.

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