The Truth, Mainly - 07/13/1998

Submitting to the Southern Baptists' plan — graciously
by Leon Satterfield

I was reading the paper last month and it made me say “Hah!”

“That’s your exclamation-point hah indicating a bias has been reinforced,” my wife said, “as opposed to your question-mark hah indicating greater-than-usual befuddlement.”

“Hah?” I said.

“So which bias is it?” she asked.

“Check this out,” I said, holding up a story headlined “Baptists say men should lead couples.”

It was all about how the Southern Baptist Convention amended its Statement of Belief by adding that a husband should “lead his family,” and that a wife should “submit herself graciously.”

“Let’s give it a try,” I said. “For the next month, I lead, and you submit yourself graciously. OK?”

“Whatever,” she said, going back to her crossword puzzle. “What’s a six-letter Greek word for overweening pride and arrogance?”

So we’ve been trying the Southern Baptist formula for the last month. We still have a few bugs to work out.

I’m quite good, I must say, at leading my wife. And she at least goes through the motions of submitting.

But we’re hung up on the “graciously” part.

I began by training her to walk three or four paces behind me when we were out in public. She submitted, but kept asking if she couldn’t make it 15 or 20 paces so no one would know we were together. People heard.

When I told her to stop getting my attention by saying “Hey, Bozo,” she began saying “Heigh-de-ho, Lord and Master,” and “Yo, Big Enchilada,” and “Whazzup, Your Blinding Magnificence.”

I particularly liked that last one. And spoken in the proper tone of voice, it might be considered an act of gracious submission. But it loses something when accompanied by snorts, eye-rollings, and gagging noises.

“Look,” I tell her, “it’s been a month now, and your submission seems to grow less gracious by the day. In fact, it seems to be coarse mockery—and thereby an affront both to me and to the Southern Baptist Convention.”

“So why, O Light o’My Life,” she says, “are you so hot to follow the Southern Baptists in this little exercise in pious sexism?”

“I’m following the power,” I say. “Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich—they’re all Southern Baptists and look where it got them.”

She looks as though she’s just sniffed an offensive emission.

“Power through misogyny?” she says.

“It’s not misogyny,” I say. “Listen to this.”

And I read her the part of the revised Statement of Belief that says “The husband and the wife are of equal worth before God.”

“If we’re of equal worth,” she says, “why do you get to lead while I get to submit graciously? What’s equal about that?”

“It’s an analogy,” I explain. “Listen to this.”

And I read her the part of the statement that says “A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

“Internal contradiction,” she says.

“Hah?” I say.

“If the analogy is that you’re Christ and I’m the church, we’re not equal,” she says. “Baptists would never say the church is equal to Christ. If they really mean that husband and wife are equal, they should say that whichever one is most Christ-like gets to lead and the other one has to submit graciously. To tie Christ-like qualities to the Y chromosome is blasphemously reductionist, wouldn’t you say?”

“Play fair,” I say. “You can’t speak in big words and long paragraphs in this column. Besides, you ignore the scriptural authority.”

And I whip out my New Testament and quote from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.”

“But that’s Paul talking, not Christ,” she says. “When Paul talks about women, he’s about as divinely inspired as Archie Bunker.”

If there’s one thing the family head can’t tolerate, it’s an uppity wife arguing with scripture. I put my foot down.

“Stifle, Dingbat,” I say in my Charlton Heston voice. “Submit thyself graciously to My Blinding Magnificence or, hoo boy, are you gonna be sorry.”

She smiles sweetly, sticks out her tongue in a Bronx cheer, thumbs her nose, makes a rude gesture, and says “Submit this.”

“Hah?” I say, feeling a tectonic power shift rumbling down deep in the nether regions of inter-gender theology.

I wonder if I should alert Bill, Al, Trent, and Newt.


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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