I told you I should have left it alone. ESPN helped us understand the story behind Musburger’s exclamations about Ms. Webb. They noted,
“We always try to capture interesting storylines and the relationship between an Auburn grad who is Miss Alabama and the current Alabama quarterback certainly met that test. However, we apologize that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that.”
That clears it up. Someone forgot to tell Musburger to focus on the storyline.
The real reason it may have been better to leave the story alone is all on me. Running several late morning errands yesterday gave me time to think more about the incident that has been kept alive via viral video and Ms. Webb’s growing Twitter followers. Yesterday I wrote,
I am reminded of the sociological work, Guyland. The author argues female identity in our culture is cheapened as it flows through the male. If you have daughters, I would give it a read. I learned about the book several years go via Joe Thorn. Some will point to the Bible as source material to justify just such a move – that is, female identity formation is derivative through the male. The problem is what male, which male? The thinking surely follows that good Bible believing people cannot allow the neo-Freudian feminists any room to point out the way in which our culture, even in our churches, views childhood development has been deeply scarred by male only control groups out of which Freud drew his conclusions. If we really want to turn to the Sacred Text, we still must work through the Apostle Paul’s summary in Galatians 3 without the lens that explains away identity implications as he writes, “there is neither male nor female,” our identity is formed in our understanding of the Imago Dei. It is silly to think such work results in androgyny. That is sheer pandering.
There are subtle ways we perpetuate that female identity is derivative through the male. I write to confess my guilt. A personal story illustrates.
I planned several gifts for Patty for her milestone birthday last Friday. One involved securing the services of a landscape artist. One of our friends told us about Heather. I called to enlist her services and told her it was a birthday present for my wife. My hope was the first appointment would be a surprise. Extenuating circumstances forced me to re-schedule. The hope of a surprise was dashed.
When I first spoke to Heather on the phone I asked if she was a well-known figure’s wife. She acknowledged that she was. For the next few minutes she told me about her business and how the process would result in a potential transformation of the yard. I told her I wanted to hire her and we set the appointment. Innocent, right? Not so fast.
What dawned on me yesterday as I drove from stop to stop was how I had diminished a person by first identifying them through another. I realize we often do this to make connection. I could fall back on the fact that I was not sure I called the right person so I asked my question for confirmation. No matter my excuse, the reality is rather than engage Heather for the reason I called; I first identified her through her husband.
Before Heather arrived I told Patty what I had done. I told her I would need to apologize. Patty understood. Most Pastors’ wives get the same treatment. “Oh, so you are Pastor Todd’s wife.” Patty is very supportive. She has been through the ups and downs of being a pastor’s wife.
Patty is more than a Pastor’s wife. To identify her through me is to make of her an object. Once a person is declared an object we fall back on standard expectations. The first question Patty was asked in our very first encounter with a Pulpit Committee, “Do you play the piano?” The unspoken expectation was the Pastor’s wife played the piano. She said she would need lessons.
The implications for the way we subtly objectify those we don’t normally consider objectified points to the way we keep the as is structure in tact. For instance, we have little trouble considering pornography a demeaning objectification of the human form, male or female. We would never think that identifying one human being through another human being to be similar, surely not the same as pornography.
When Christians claim human beings are made in the Image of God, then it stands that to consider the identity of one human as derivative through another is objectification at best, and idolatry at worst. The philosophical turn that suggests we shift the subject helps us open up the possibilities that are other people. Or, when we work to recognize the other, other persons as human subjects, we open up the possibility of both deeper and challenging relationships. If I cannot, or will not, objectify you then I must be ready for you. And that means I must be ready to get outside of my expectations bound up in my former objectification of you as a human being and realize there might be something for me to learn, experience, and grow from rather than use our relationship built on the object I made of you.
The as is structure compels us all to be the same. Christian people, Jesus-y people, should think deeply about the ways in which we subtly objectify the other to both their and our detriment. Objectifying the other is not cute.
Yesterday I apologized to Heather. I am sure there will be other occasions where I realize the all too subtle ways in which I need to throw off the as is structure that keeps people objects to fill my expectations rather than subjects with which to share life, making it meaningful and abundant.