Indebted Love: Paul’s Subjection Language in Romans
- Monya A. Stubbs
After a few books featuring more social criticism and less theology (West and Dyson), it’s been a pleasure digging into the singular focus that develops in Stubbs’ Indebted Love. The first chapter opens with an introduction to Stubbs’ use of Harriet Tubman as the interpretive rubric through which she evaluates the meaning of Paul’s subjection language in Romans.
The book begins with this quotation from Tubman:
I had reasoned it out in my mind, there were one or two things I had a right to – freedom or death. If I could not have the one, I would have the other, but no man would take me alive. I would fight for my freedom as long as my breath lasted, and when the time come for me to go, the Lord would let them take me Harriet Tubman. (1)
From Tubman’s words, Stubbs discerns three key interpretive points:
- First, Tubman recognized the landscape she inhabited. Under chattel slavery, she and other slaves were subject to institutional oppression. By her own words, she first “reasoned it out” that she was subject to this oppression. This required recognition of the systemic violence and domination.
- Second, Tubman demonstrated the spiritual and ultimately the theological value of reason and examination. Tubman did not simply reject slavery out of hand, but she followed an intellectual and evaluative process that led her to determine that because slavery denied human dignity, it could not be God’s will (immediately this process parallel’s my own deconstruction of traditional church teaching on homosexuality).
- Third, out of Tubman’s recognition of slavery’s oppressive evil, she experienced empowerment and transformation. Her worldview, beliefs and actions were altered.
Stubbs explores the tension presented in Paul’s instruction to live under subjection to God, to governing bodies and powers, and to one-another as mutually-submissive members of Christ’s body. Paul seems to affirm this paradigm, but then illustrates Christ’s rescuing of humanity from the domination-subjection reality. (24)
More to come…