This is a topic that has always been of some interest to me, because I think most Christians get it wrong in one direction or another. Some assume that the Biblical statements of St. Paul about the roles of men and women, both in the Church and in the family, are archaic and should be set aside as relics of a bygone era. Some even consider St. Paul's words to be misogynist. Others assume that the same Biblical teachings describe a subordination that is one-sided. The latter can most often be ascribed to men reading St. Paul's words to wives rather than reading what he has to say to husbands, and women reading St. Paul's words to wives without reading what he has to say to husbands.
I am not going to discuss the greater topic of ordination of women, since the Orthodox Church's position on the matter is very clear and I have no quarrel with it. However, in the discussion of men having authority over women, my friend Pastor William Weedon made this comment:
[T]hink of how a properly brought up man treats a woman (who is not his wife) - well, at least in years gone by in our culture. Does he remain seated on the subway or rise to give her his seat? Why? Does he open the door for her? Why? Does he help her carry up her groceries? Why? What I'm trying to get at is that there was a time in our culture when men were taught to render a special honor to women simply as women that they did not similarly render to their fellow men (though they were taught to also honor the elderly, male or female). The little things were intended in a sense to be training for the harder moments. That the men remained on the Titanic and the women and the children were given the life-boats. That in times of violence, the men did not shelter behind the women, but were taught to rather shelter the women. It's bigger than a husband toward a wife, though that is always the grounding and the first. But it is precisely this non-reciprocal relationship which runs with "under the authority of" - maybe better stated as "under the protection of"? God intended women to have such a shelter, such a protection. Her father, her brother, her husband, even her neighbor. It's a gift built into the created order. I think our society is in so many ways the poorer for having lost it. It wasn't about putting women down; it was about honoring them. And not just those women who happen to be wives. We've all but lost that.I find this to be a very profound observation. Most people I know, regardless of their position on women and men and traditional ordering in the family, still appreciate chivalry. Why? Because it is, as Pastor Weedon notes, honorific. The idea of treating women as treasures is scoffed at by some. Ignored by others. Unfortunately, as Pastor Weedon also notes, we are in large measure losing this practice in our culture. Not entirely, of course. But in large measure. I cannot do much about that since I have 3 girls. But I intend to do what I can, starting with saving the quote from Pastor Weedon above and showing it to my daughters when they are older, so they will know what their father expects of their future husbands.
I may even be obnoxious enough to show it to whomever my dear girls agree to marry.