The Missionary Position and Power

September 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm 2 comments

He asked me to give a toast at the wedding. While I wasn’t the one who introduced them, I got to play a big part in their early dating days. After all, they were young adult leaders in a youth ministry I was leading for a year. I got to see their love bloom and grow up close and personal, and I was often asked to give advice in the midst of some of the struggles that are part of parcel of learning to love. I’m excited to celebrate with them at their wedding today.

Grandpa Simpson: “In my day, women didn’t make a sound!”

I haven’t given a toast in a long time and weddings have changed quite a bit since I got married 20 years ago. Everybody wants to do something different. So, I asked a few more questions about what was expected of me. We’ve had our share of conversations about sex, so, I warned, “Maybe I’ll make a toast to your sex life in explicit detail…” He responded, “may we not be limited to the missionary position…” He always knows how to make me laugh.

I couldn’t help thinking about this as I interacted with readers on the Rachel Held Evans blog as Rachel responded to Jared Wilson’s blog which included talk about sex and submission (the original blog post has since been taken down as our friend Scot McKnight and others requested).

Why do we call sexual intercourse with the man on top and the woman on bottom the missionary position?

I’ve done some writing on this blog about the missional church and the shift from a Christendom-conquering-colonizing view of mission to a more relational-incarnational view of mission. I’ve also written on how important our use of language is in effecting cultural change.

One of the most disturbing parts of Jared Wilson’s post quoting Doug Wilson’s Fidelity is the use of the following description of sex as: A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

Rachel Held Evans was one of the loudest voices in response. After I read her response, I wondered if my friend Jim Henderson had been talking with her.

One of Jim’s favorite maxims is, “It’s not about sex, it’s about power.” He writes in his latest book, The Resignation of Eve, “People who have power often don’t think about it, but people who don’t have power think about it all the time.” And as we’re told from the media, men think about sex all the time. And they are often the ones with the power. So, we should not be surprised when men post such things and fail to realize how powerful their words are – and how powerfully they may hurt others.

I wonder, what if we decided to reform our thinking around sex in the relational-incarnational ways that we are changing our thinking around mission? No more conquering and colonizing. But relating to one another in ways that seek understanding and empower one another to be fully human.

There has been so much violence done in the name of mission and submission over the years when mission was primarily viewed in the conquering and colonizing way. Is it any wonder that when we use such language in relation to sexual intercourse that those being conquered and colonized would feel violated? Jesus rejected the conquering and colonizing structures of his day when he refused to be the King in the way the people wanted him to be king. A Jesus kind of power is not a power over, but a giving up and giving away kind of power.

It’s not about sex. It’s about power.

I hope we can learn together how to better steward our power even in the most intimate of spaces – the marriage bed.


I’m continuing last week’s book offerings for my summer #freebookgiveaway. Sign up to get monthly email updates delivered straight to your inbox and you’ll be entered in the weekly drawing for free books when you confirm.

This week’s choices are:


This week’s choices are:

The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam's Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church's Backbone? by Jim Henderson The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church’s Backbone? by Jim Henderson


Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home by Jonalyn Grace Fincher Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home by Jonalyn Grace Fincher


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Giving Up on Organized Religion? Nice Christians Don’t Talk about Sex

2 Comments

  • 1. pasrosesociete  |  September 11, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Thank you for this blog post. I read this quote by Doug Wilson and I was not impressed. I was born on an island that was a colony of a white European power and for me, the mere thought of colonization brings to mind dehuminization, abuse (physical and or mental) and slavery in its cruelest forms. So the word being used in the context of sex in a marital relationship is offensive. I have no desire to marry a man who believes that when he and I are engaged in sex that he is engaged in an act of colonization. I think it would be interesting if Doug Wilson read the stories/histories of colonized/ conquered people. Does he really want to relate to his wife in that way?

  • 2. Elizabeth Chapin  |  September 11, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Hi Pasrosesociete, thanks for reading and for commenting. Your perspective is an important one. Those in power often neglect to listen to or understand such perspectives. Thanks for commenting.

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