We all know any nutbar with a computer can jump online as an expert anything, and people will just believe it. The internet is the newest way to spread urban legends, hoaxes and strange prophecies. Christianity has always been plagued by this sort of thing. The pre-modern version of the internet, after all, was the church door, where all kinds of notices and news were posted. People hung out in the church porch to idle and gossip. Markets were usually in the church yard or at the market cross just beyond the church. The old fellers who no longer worked hung round, the young fellers with a day off met up with friends, and the women of all ages too a few minutes or more to exchange greetings and news with neighbours. It was a great place to start a rumour.
I tell thee this by way of warnign thee to be discerning. Discernment can be simple common sense, but for Christians it can be and should be more. When we hear something we think may change our lives, when we have decisions to make, then we have to approach it with three other cautions: What does the Bible say? What does the Christian community say? What does my heart in prayer say? All these cautions give us the opportunity to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Common sense, Biblical intepretation, community contribution, and the word of the heart may each fail separately if we emphasize one too much over the other, but when they come close to agreeing, or two or three cuations agree closely, then we may with confidence know that the Lord has given us an answer of peace.
I came across all this while looking at sites on Christian headcovering. We all know the Bible passages well; if not, any one of these sites will direct us and even furnish a suitable pericope in a favourite translation! What struck me is that ninety percent of these sites are written by men. If there’s one field of theology where women should take the lead and expound it must be about headcovering!
I suppose some of this is from the question of headship. If a man is head of his wife, and Christ head of the man, then the man should be ableto tell the woman when to cover, how to cover, and why to cover. But this is not the sort of obedience God meant us to follow. God tells us He wants us to be obedient, but the decision is ours. We aren’t ordered to obedience with wrathful vengeance. A woman is first of all to be a Christian, and to follow Christ. She is in Christ the equal of her husband. Her Godly wisdom may even exceed his, and the husband needs to honour this, listen to his wife, consult her on family and business matters, and sometimes concede the decision to her for the good of the family. I am in that situation right now. Nicholas is still suffering from the damage caused by his stroke, and he knows that he does not always understand the situation completely, so a lot of decision making is left to me. Still, I talk to him about decisions, ask his viewpoint, and even ask him what he thinks we should do. But he’s willing to let me decide.
So why do men weigh in with a lot of opinion on what God means for women? Why isn’t this a woman’s theology? In the matter of family obedience, a woman must first agree to the marital relationship. She cannot be ordered into it, and once her agreement is secured, then the issue of obedience arises. Of course, I believe women are under the headship of their husbands. I believe women should be obedient to their Christian husband, just as he must be always mindful of the needs of his wife and family, and put them first. And while men may have opinions on the dress of Christian women, it is the women themselves that St. Paul addressed, not their husbands. He reasoned with them, made his case, pointed out their obligations. He didn’t say to the men, “Make your wives do this!”
I am glad to see that many women make the decision concerning headcovering for themselves, and even that those whose husbands do not like it are willing to obey. I would like to see more women write about this important subject, for that is what will carry weight with other women. Some may even present good arguments for not covering!