And no, I'm not talking about S&M.

Submission is hard for a socially liberal outsider. We've seen too many times where power was abused. We're too in touch with the suffering caused by those who chose to submit to something and got invalidated, or worse. Too many fellow queers, forced to suppress their identity, subjected to inhumane tortures, outcast by their families, all in the name of submission. Too many women have taken the poor advice of their churches and submitted to men who beat them, gaslighted them, and treated them like inferiors. Too many churches have contributed to pedophile coverups and racial subjugation and holy wars.

In some ways, that is what is so powerful about submission. I'm not saying, of course, that we should submit to human people or structures that are going to abuse or invalidate us. But there's something ironically empowering about putting our trust in something so fully. It's not something to do blindly, only prayerfully and with proper discernment (a topic I'll probably want to dive in to one of these days).

I've been working on learning to submit lately. It's hard. Like, really hard. Tearful screaming at God in lamentatious anger on your drive home hard.

I'm firmly of the mind that all of Christendom is One Church (another future topic, to be sure). The powerful thing about that belief, I've come to realize, is that submitting to any church is the same as submitting to The Church is the same as submitting to God.

When my old church died, it was time to go church shopping. It was the first time I was ever in that position, since my parents had been responsible for that whenever we moved in my childhood, and the only time before I had changed churches was a very gradual and organic process. I quickly learned that church shopping feels disgusting. Nothing undermines the feel of unity like making a list of pros and cons and making sure not to get peoples' hopes up every week when you walk through the doors into another new Narthex.

We prayed about it, and we settled on our current church, a place that embodies many of our values, but is a little farther away than we would like. We had been spoiled by our previous church, only three blocks down the street.

But for all that I am part of a church now that affirms my queerness, that is excited to have a man in a skirt going to a youth retreat, I am no less complicit in the wrongs carried out falsely in the name God for it.

It's a great and beautiful thing that there are so many flavors of worship now that can reach out to all different kinds of people, but I think submission is a challenge faced at every level of church life. Entire denominations struggle with it, individual churches struggle with it, and every member of the Church struggles with it. I think it's the number one thing driving divisions in the church, and we are living in a time with stronger divisions than ever.

Marketing teams divide us to make us easier to sell to. The media divides us to draw fear-based clicks and view. Politicians divide us to keep the powerful on top. Submission is the greatest subversion of the ways the world tries to divide us, because it makes us vulnerable yet united in defiance at the same time. It's the most Christlike thing we can probably attain in our lives, perhaps second to love, because Christ, with the backing of all the power of God, submitted to death at the hands of mere, pathetic, wrong people.

Unfortunately, there's only one good and perfect thing to submit to, and it can be hard to know what that looks like when God is in many ways intangible and imperceptible, even as they (yeah, I use 'they' pronouns for God. Look at that, a third future topic) are not in many others. Submitting to God also means submitting to ourselves to trust what we are hearing, and submitting to others to make sure we aren't leading ourselves astray. And neither of those are good or perfect, so we're left with a shell of what it could be.

I wish there were a good answer. I'm privileged enough to be relatively safe, as a hetero-seeming, male-presenting white person, that it's not all that risky for me, and even then it's probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and I have to keep trying to do it all over again. Frankly, I suck at it. But when you do it right, it's one of the most liberating feelings I've ever felt.


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