Christian wives have been taught to see their role in biblical marriage primarily as a judge of their husband’s obligation to love them as Christ loved the church. This is as I showed in the beginning of the series essential to their inverting the biblical frame of marriage and placing themselves as the leader over their submissive husbands.
This important biblical command has become the focus of an unhealthy obsession amongst Christians when considering marriage, effectively crowding the rest of the commands regarding marriage out. Prior to the release of the movie Fireproof, co creator Stephen Kendrick was asked how he and his brother Alex (the lead in the movie Courageous) decided on the topic for the movie. The opening part of Stephen’s answer is very telling (emphasis mine):
We had been praying specifically for a storyline that would help strengthen our culture and had considered several options. To be honest, Alex didn’t initially want to do a movie on marriage though he was taken by the idea of daring a man to love his wife. After months of prayer, the Lord clearly led us to go after this issue through a compelling story that we hope captures the hearts of both women and men…
These are two men who are presumably well versed in the bible, and yet only one command stood out when considering making a movie on Christian marriage. And even here, they managed to twist the original meaning to something straight out of pop relationship psychology. It isn’t about the firm love of leadership, but the touchy-feely love of romance novels and chick flicks. It is Christ’s love for the Church interpreted through the lens of Jesus is your boyfriend. They took it a step further and ultimately made it not about the husband demonstrating his faithfulness to this command, but him winning the heart of his whorish wife away from the man she is pursuing. It didn’t matter until she felt it sufficiently, and only total submission to his wife would do.
This mindset is also on display in a post Sheila Gregoire did back in December, Am I Too Hard on Women? Sheila quotes a commenter on her blog:
I for one am tired of well-meaning Christians not holding men’s feet to the fire. The Bible is pretty clear that men need to love their wives as Christ loved His Bride, the Church. I don’t see Jesus standing at the foot of the cross saying to Himself: “Well, you guys are weren’t dying for today because there’s a ballgame on and you don’t look very pretty to me.”
Did Jesus and does He still ACTIVELY pursue His Bride? Should men continuously make their wives a priority and pursue them?
But it isn’t just men watching non wife approved ballgames the commenter is angry about. She is furious that men are listening to what women tell them they want in order to feel loved:
Another thing: I hate these lists that men are given to tell them how to show love to their wives. Buy her flowers. Write her little love notes. Do this for her. Do that for her. I think the best thing a man can do is quit relying on those generic lists, even such advice from “Christian” counselors, and start studying your wife. Make your own lists, men, that show you wanted to be sincere and genuine in your relationship with your wife. . . That you actually treasure your wife and realize she is a unique creation by God given to you to CARE FOR, PROTECT, SERVE, and HELP.
She closes her rant with:
Please, Christian church ladies, quit making excuses for Christian husbands. Somebody, PLEASE SOMEBODY, hold their feet to the fire. As long as you keep telling women to do what men ought to be doing, it’s not going to improve.
Sheila tells us that she agrees with the commenter, but that her blog is targeted to women and not men. She uses the comment to demonstrate what she experiences when she and her husband do Christian marriage conferences. Each time Sheila speaks to the wives at the conference about what they need to do, the women resent being told they have anything to improve:
One of the interesting things about giving the wife talk is that, as I start to talk about what a woman can do to make marriage great, I see many in the audience looking distinctly uncomfortable and shifting in their seats.
At this point Sheila stops her talk and reassures the wives that their husbands are getting it even worse:
…right now my husband has all of your husbands in another room, and he is blasting them and telling them what they need to do, too, in no uncertain terms.
Only after this are the women willing to listen and consider their own obligations. She explains that she often experiences the same sentiment from the readers of her blog, which she characterizes as:
I won’t listen to your advice for how women can make their marriages better unless I’m assured that someone is lecturing my husband first, because he’s the one who really needs to change.
Sheila reassures her readers that she understands their concerns, but that she writes a blog for women, not men. Her point is that neither sex is given a pass to not follow biblical commands because their spouse isn’t living up to them. She also mixes in a vague accusation that men aren’t as interested in fulfilling their biblical roles in marriage because it is women and not men who read “relationship blogs”. She then feels compelled to give an offering to the standard feminist bogeyman of wives becoming doormats and being abused:
This does not mean that we are to be doormats, and indeed, acting like a doormat and enabling him to treat you disrespectfully can make your marriage worse. I have spoken about this at length. It also does not mean that we put up with abuse.
Sheila’s obsession with wives not becoming doormats is so great that one of the linked posts she references was actually one she wrote after reading my post Rotating Polyandry and Its Enforcers. She read about the need for husbands to show firm leadership, and felt compelled to write a post of her own warning wives not to become doormats. In an age where wives are openly rebelling against the biblical command to submit to their husbands, in classic feminist form Sheila is consumed by fear that wives might submit too much to their husbands. She continues to harp on this even after admitting in a previous post that Christian women are obsessed with “being true to themselves” and that the church gives women a pass:
In general, the church is very hard on men and very easy on women, and yet it is women who instigate most divorces. We need to get back to the message that we have a responsibility and an obligation to make our marriages work, even if those marriages do not make us happy. But that goes against conventional wisdom, and seems mean. We really are fighting upstream!
But that was an entire three months before Sheila wrote the post asking if she is too hard on women, so this has already been forgotten.
Fortunately Sheila can at times be temporarily reminded of the fact that churches are giving wives a pass for open rebellion, focusing instead only on husbands. Elspeth jogged her memory with an excellent comment. After Elspeth’s comment several other women expressed similar sentiments, including Mrs. P:
Unfortunately feminism has become such an accepted part of our culture that even the church gets caught up in it. You’re right about the vast difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day church services. Mother’s Day is all about honoring and glorifying motherhood/womanhood while Father’s Day is all about telling men that they’re all terrible husbands/fathers and they need to get their lazy bums off the couch. Isn’t Father’s Day supposed to be about HONORING fathers? Yeesh.
This lead to a startling turn around by Sheila in the comments:
I agree that the church really is harder on men. I’ve known two women to leave their husbands in the last few years in our church after affairs, and everyone still assumed it was the husbands’ fault. It was really tough!
Don’t worry Christian wives; Sheila had forgotten all about this a month later, so her blog is once again a safe place to judge the performance of husbands who refuse to submit to your authority. Carry on.
- Reframing Christian marriage
- Reframing Christian marriage part 2: rebelling wives aren’t to blame for their own rebellion.
- Reframing Christian marriage part 3: husbands as helpmeets.
- Reframing Christian marriage part 5: sex as a weapon.