I’m going to start out with this: GAahhhHHHH!
I am swearing off dating. At least, I’m swearing off dating Christian guys. For now.
I was told today that I’m rejecting Christ, rejecting the Bible, and am not “entitled” to understand the Bible because I don’t believe that it’s biblically required for a woman to change her name when she marries. I wish this were a one-time occurrence, that this was just a particularly extreme case. It’s not.
I’m tired of being told that I either don’t understand, or am not capable of understanding, the Bible. I’m tired of being told that I’m a heathen, a Jezebel, ungodly, not-Christlike, or not really a Christian because of this one single point. I was also told today that I need to stop reading feminism books and start reading the Bible.
I’m just going to point this out right now: NOWHERE in the Bible does it say a woman should, or must, change her name at marriage. In fact, in biblical times, people didn’t have last names. On top of that, women have only been changing their names for about the last thousand years. Just because it’s a tradition doesn’t mean the Bible dictates it. Stop interpreting the Bible through the lens of your own culture and biases instead of in the context in which it was written.
Also, I don’t identify myself as a feminist, but if I did, that’s also not unbiblical. And to imply that I don’t read the Bible? Seriously?
I’m just over it. I think I’m going to take a break from dating. This is just too aggravating.
I have to admit that I get so infuriated over people who use the bible to promote their own personal beliefs, like the people you’ve been dating. They have the whole thing backwards – they are trying to make God into their image. Stick to your beliefs and to what you know is right. And thanks.
Christian guy here – hi 🙂 You’re right – the Bible doesn’t say anywhere that a woman has to change her name when she gets married. It’s absolutely a cultural thing in the Western world, just like wearing a wedding ring. The thing is, the Bible does indirectly offer some advice on cultural insititutions related to marriage in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. For traditionalists, of course, this passage was often taken absolutely literally – women were expected to wear hats or veils in church. However, more relevantly, a covered head was a cultural symbol of marriage in the Biblical cultures. For a married woman to go to church with her head unconvered would be to, implicitly, say “I don’t want people to identify me as married” or, even worse, “I don’t want people to identify me with my husband”. Paul quite rightly points out that this is a form of dishonour, and therefore prohibits its practice in the church.
So, the question we’re then left with is, what reasons are there for a woman choose to not change her name after marriage? Well, there are professional reasons – particularly in the academic world, name recognition is pretty important. There’s still always the choice of operating under her maiden name in academic circles but her husband’s name in everything else, but in general it’s still a reason that wouldn’t dishonour her husband. For some women, it’s an attachment to their family and the name they’ve grown up with. In that case, I’d say it is dishonouring their husband, because it’s a failure to “leave and cleave”. For others it’s simply a choice based on independence, which falls under the same point as the previous note.
At the end of the day, would I date/marry a girl who wasn’t prepared to change her surname? I’d certainly be wanting to ask why; some reasons would make me turn around and run the opposite direction pretty quickly, while others I’d be completely okay with. On the same note, if I were a woman, I’d be asking a guy for his reasons if he wasn’t prepared to wear his wedding ring as a permanent thing. There are certainly work reasons that could cause it to get damaged but, for someone in a white collar job, there’s no good reason not to. I say this to show that this certainly isn’t a one way thing – I believe that, mitigating circumstances aside, Christian spouses should generally adopt whatever cultural symbols are used to indicate commitment and unity with one another.
And my question, then, is why is it on the woman to “leave and cleave”? The Bible specifically says that the HUSBAND leaves HIS family and is united with his wife. Why when a woman wants to keep her family name are her motives and spirituality put into question, but if a man wants to, that’s godly and spiritual?
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If the standard cultural symbol was the husband changing his name to that of the wife, I’d be as much in support of that as the other way around. I finished my comment the way I did for a reason – if either the husband or the wife wants to reject a cultural indicator of marriage, I would be asking why. I would question a guy who refused to wear a wedding ring as much as I would question a woman who didn’t change her surname. Cultural norms are typically arbitrary, but so is language; we use them much the same way. The word “sun” refers to a giant ball of hydrogen undergoing fusion and emitting a large amount of electromagnetic radiation simply because that’s the way we recognise what those three letters and the corresponding syllable refer to. In the same way, it’s arbitrary that a woman changing her name (and title) or a pair of metal bands being exchanged symbolises marriage, but we know, culturally, that it does communicate marriage. Mitigating circumstances aside, I believe that husbands and wives should both want to communicate their marriage to one another and to others in every way possible, including the implementation of relevant cultural norms.
While I understand what you’re saying, I don’t believe in doing things solely because “that’s the way it’s done”. If we always did that, there’d still be slaverly, black people, women, and non-land owners still wouldn’t be able to vote, etc. I could give so many examples of “cultural norms” of the past. Just because something is a cultural norm doesn’t automatically mean it has merit.
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Sorry if that’s how my statement came across. There are absolutely cultural norms that we should challenge. However, when cultural norms are not contra-Biblical (and I would argue that, while a woman changing her surname in marriage isn’t required by the Bible, it’s not anti-Biblical teaching either; it’s basically neutral), that we should see them as useful tools to be used when we want to communicate. To return to my language analogy, in any given time and place, there are certain words that may be accepted for use, but have rather derogatory origins. Even though those words convey meaning, Christians should seek to avoid those words. However, there are plenty of words that are completely neutral; they simply communicate something without being good or bad. When we examine a tradition and find that it is neither good nor bad, we get to choose how we use it.
Looking back to marriage specifically, it would be possible that there could be bad traditions associated with marriage. For example, to take a horrifying, hypothetical (I hope) example, if a culture required that a woman had her tongue removed when she got married, I would not be asking my wife to do so, nor asking her for a reason why not. That’s not a neutral cultural practice; it’s an abhorrent one. However, I don’t think any of our Western cultural practices for communicating marriage fall into that category; they’re pretty much neutral. In that case, I think that communicating marriage is a good thing for both husband and wife to do, so I support utilising the current norms for so long as they continue to communicate marriage.
That’s the thing, though, it’s neutral for YOU because you are a male and not the one being asked to change your name. It’s not neutral for me.
Let me ask you a question, if a woman, when getting married, were culturally expected to change her first name, would you feel the same? Or what about if she were expected to change her hair color? What if she were expected to change the way she speaks?
What I’m trying to say here is where is that line? You may view a woman being EXPECTED to change her name as neutral. I do not.
I mentioned earlier that, if the convention was that males changed their name, I’d be happy enough to go along with that. This isn’t something I’m going “I’m okay with it because I don’t have to deal with it”; it’s something that I’m okay with because, even if it were applied to me, I’d be okay with it (trust me, I get enraged by the mere fact that high heels exist; even small cultural norms that do harm women bother me).
In terms of where to draw the line, first question I ask – does it cause physical harm? In terms of changing colour, that’s most probably true, so that one’s easily out; even though it communicates the wrong thing by not doing it, causing harm rules it out completely.
Second question I ask – what is the cost? In the case of changing the way she speaks, that requires rather intensive coaching for most people. At that point, it’s preferable, but understandable if a particular woman refuses to do so. Of course, you could be talking about a change in speech that is isn’t entirely dissimilar to distinctions that exist in actual languages, where the words and language that you use reflect your social status (as well as that of the listener). If there was a shift associated with being married then, yes, I would consider that on okay; it’s something that you’d already have to know how to do to be using the language, the only learning it modifying the way you use what you already know.
Changing the first name is an interesting one. As a Westerner, going into a culture where it was the norm would seem very weird. However, I’m not sure I’d be intrinsically more bothered by it than being required to change my surname, and I’ve already said I’d be okay with that. Maybe we see names differently. I don’t feel strongly attached to names; they can be powerful symbols, but they’re meaningless apart from the person to whom they’re attached. Changing a name doesn’t change the person, so I wouldn’t care too much about changing any of my names (actually, if I were a woman, I’d look forward to changing my surname, because I’d get rid of my awful middle name while I was already going to the effort of filling out the paperwork).
I guess the question I’m coming to here is this: hypothetically, if I were a guy you were contemplating dating, you’d mentioned you didn’t think changing your surname was necessary, and I asked the question “why do you feel so strongly about not changing your surname?”, what answer would you give? It sounds like it’s a big deal to you; is it family significance, is it personal identity…? I get that asking this as a random commenter on your blog may be a tad bold, but I think where we’re fundamentally disagreeing is how tightly we value our respective names.
I think you may have hit on part of our difference. You don’t view names as very important. It’s not a big deal to you. To me, it is. A little background for you, I legally changed my first name when I became an adult. I never liked the name I was given at birth and it never felt right for me. There’s a lot more to it than that, but this is the condensed version.
On the contrary, I have always loved my last name. From the time I was a little girl, I loved it. It is unique, it conveys my heritage, and it sounds really cool. There are only two families in the US with this last name. I enjoy my last name.
For someone who has no great attachment to their name, why should I be the one who has to change mine? I have found this frequently in men I have dated, or considered dating. They’re not particularly attached to their name, but they are dead set on their wife taking it. Here I am, who loves my last name, being told I need to arbitrarily change it.
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