Reader aa asked for my thoughts on an article by JD Gunter at the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) titled We’re Just “Talking”. Gunter has misunderstood the increased ambiguity in the Sexual Marketplace (SMP); where women have pushed to extend both the duration and the definition of courtship, Gunter sees men unwilling to grow up and state their intentions. The median age of first marriage for women in the US is now 27, and this doesn’t factor in the women who have delayed marriage so long they are unable to marry. The average American woman now expects to be courted for a decade or more. Men stating their intentions to women who see empowerment in ambiguity and fear commitment won’t solve the problem. Far better advice would be to warn the men to avoid women who aren’t clearly looking to marry, and to advise women who actually do wish to marry to be clear about their own intentions.
But this is very basic stuff, and misunderstanding the nature of the SMP is so common it is entirely forgivable. I was more interested in the organization itself. Very often organizations which form in response to feminism unwittingly adopt a surprisingly feminist worldview in the process. With a click on their about page I found that unfortunately the CBMW has indeed swallowed large parts of feminism whole.
The first sign is the conspicuous inclusion of a Statement on Abuse on equal footing with their Core Beliefs and their Mission and Vision statements. As I have recently written about, vague accusations that the average Christian husband is abusive are a very common way to assault the very idea of biblical headship. It turns out that a vague and hysterical fear that the modern Christian husband is abusive is one of the 10 core reasons the CBMW was founded. In their founding document (the Danvers Statement) of the 10 contemporary developments which [CBMW's founders] observe[d] with deep concern, a sudden and mysterious increase in abuse is number 6:
6. the upsurge of physical and emotional abuse in the family;
This idea that modern men are somehow more brutish than the ostensible sensitive new age guys of the ancient world is flat out bizarre, yet this is a very common assumption.
Even more troubling though is their framing of biblical headship and submission. In the Affirmations section they explain their fear that Christian wives will fall into the sin of servility instead of what they call “intelligent submission” (emphasis mine):
4. The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women (Genesis 3:1-7, 12, 16).
– In the home, the husband’s loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife’s intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.
This paranoia that Christian wives won’t have enough moxie is every bit as modern and feminist as the ideas the CBMW claims to be founded to combat, yet this is part of their very charter. They present a modern Christian wife’s obligation as having to balance not being so feminist as to be overt about it, but being feminist enough to avoid the [feminist] charge of being servile. They are a hair’s breadth away from accusing sincere Christian wives of not being true to themselves.
There is no need to lay this extra burden on Christian wives, especially at a time when following the instruction of Scripture is already a radical act. No doubt they feel this new improved version of biblical submission is an act of kindness to Christian wives, but it is only more cruelty.