Ballista74 shared a youtube video where Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family explains why marriage is important. The title of the video is “Marriage is a Feminist Institution”, and the caption on youtube reads:
“Research shows marriage is what truly has done the most not only to level the playing field between the sexes, but to actually shift the balance of power in women’s favor.” Surprised? Watch this video!
The video is over an hour long, and the message of the lecture is that women are naturally moral while men are not, and therefore we need to put men under the leadership of women. This is, Stanton claims, how God made us and how marriage should work. I will only quote small portions of the video, but I encourage you to watch as much for yourself as you can so you can see that I’m faithfully representing Stanton’s teaching. See also Ballista74’s take on the video here and here.
Core to Stanton’s theology of the family is that women are naturally good, while men need to be taught to be good. This is an idea Stanton has advanced in lectures as well as his book on parenthood. Stanton explains that without women telling them what to do, the men of the original Jamestown colony were a bunch of clueless layabouts. Fortunately the bumbling men were eventually saved by a contingent of women sent to direct their operations:
…what is the fundamental role that women, the most positive powerful role that they had in building america?
She said that was very easy, very simple: “making men behave”.
What happened was the mother country said we know how we can get the men working. We’re not going to send drivers, you know crack the whip and get them working, we’re going to send women. And the women, the men will be interested in the women, and the women will set the tone for what the men should do. You know what, before you have access to me, I want a nice cabin, and I want to be able to cook stew, tomorrow. So the men have to start doing, and that’s what they did. And one thing led to another, the women got men to work, they got them to buckle down, and 200 years later, boom. We have America, one of the greatest nations, the greatest nation in the world. Why? Because women showed up, and got men doing what men are supposed to do. That is what marriage does.
Stanton is confusing women with marriage. Traditional marriage is a powerful motivating force for men. It gives men a stake in society, in part by allowing them to lead their own family. But Stanton has twisted this to mean that the mere presence of women is a civilizing force, with women firmly at the head of the family.
In Stanton’s view women’s sexual desires if left to express themselves naturally will automatically bring about both sexual morality and good men. Stanton offers up the example of the feral boys in Lord of the Flies. All those boys needed, Stanton explains, was one girl to set them straight:
It is like Lord of the Flies. I mean, I love that example, if you’re familiar with that story. There’s all these little boys, and they just turn into savages.
If there had been one little girl on that island, she would have changed the whole nature and there would be the cocky, arrogant boys. I’m going to win you over just by my absolute coolness. What is she going to do? You know what, you’re an idiot, okay. So, the other boys see him get shot down. You’ve got the other boy over here. You know what, he’s kind, he’s nice, he’s not a Betty, he’s got some masculinity about him, but he’s not super-macho. He’s considerate, he’s thoughtful. He asks her about her day. He’s watching out for her. He’s the one who’s going to get her attention. And the other guys are like “it’s actually working”. I’m going to start being like that. Manners exist because women exist. Just absolutely plain out. And so, the bargaining chip is for the man is becoming the man that a woman wants him to become.
This isn’t just bad theology, it goes against what secular scientists observe as well. Women’s sexual/romantic desires aren’t divining rods leading the way to righteousness. Women left to their own devices will tend to fall for the rogue over the upright man, although they will rationalize to themselves that it is because the rogue would make a great father. In our post sexual revolution era women spend a decade or more picking the men they are attracted to before confining themselves (if only temporarily) in marriage. If Stanton’s view of female sexuality were correct, our current generation of young men would be the best mannered in history. But well mannered men isn’t what we have received with young women calling the shots. What we have instead is a generation of douchebags. If you want well mannered men, then make sure young men need to impress the woman’s father to be successful. If you want douchebags, leave the choice up to the daughter.
But in Stanton’s world fathers are just as hopeless as the boys in Lord of the Flies. Fathers need to be kept in line by their wives, and Stanton offers up his own marriage as the template*:
My situation, I grew up as a skateboarder in the panhandle of Florida. Surfer. I was a good kid, didn’t get involved in drugs, didn’t do bad things. But that was my life. School, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in that. So I continued in that, after I got married and Jackie said, “you know what Glenn, here’s how it’s going to be” and what did I do? Okay, I guess I’m going to have to go to college. I was scared to death of college. Didn’t think I could survive there. Didn’t think I could compete there. But this woman was making me do something, this either or, so I went and did it and I became a better person.
Again, I would have never imagined that I get to do the things that I get to do today. Written a number of books, things like that. But I am who I am because Jackie said not you can do it, you will do it. And every man here knows that that’s true. So the bargaining chip for the man is, it’s going to work out better for me if I be what she wants me to be.
It’s quieter at home, she’s more likely to make the kind of food I like, I’m going to get physical access to her more often, and that sound simplistic, but there are those things. So the guy’s bargaining chip is to be a guy, and guess what he finds out it works pretty well for him. And that he’s happier than his “free” bachelor friends.
Note the implied threat of divorce if Stanton hadn’t followed his wife’s orders (emphasis mine):
But this woman was making me do something, this either or, so I went and did it and I became a better person.
Note also that Stanton has not only reversed the roles of headship and submission, but that he is explaining that the sins of wives are actually virtues. Wives denying sex, threatening divorce, being contentious, etc are shown as acting out God’s plan. As you can see, women can truly do no wrong in Stanton’s view, because women’s sin is actually virtue. When women sin, it is only because they are so much more virtuous than men.
The biggest problem with this teaching is that Stanton isn’t really teaching something new. What Stanton is teaching is what is already conventional wisdom in modern Christian culture. Christian culture is gravely ill, which is why Stanton can come to a random church and comfortably spout this very unChristian view of women and marriage without any fear of being challenged.
But there is a bright side here. While Christian culture has been corrupted, the battle hasn’t been lost simply because it has never been fought. These ideas flourish in the darkness, because they aren’t capable of standing up to scrutiny. The view of marriage that Stanton is advancing is what I’ve dubbed the wake-up call view of marriage, and is found across modern Christian teaching. What is different with Stanton however is he is less adept at hiding what he is selling. He forgets to pretend that he really isn’t overturning everything the Bible teaches about men, women, and marriage. Where others are more circumspect, Stanton outright explains that wives dominating their husbands is the reason for marriage. He goes too far, states it all too plainly, and this is the mistake.
In stating this so openly Stanton gives us an excellent opportunity to discuss our sick modern Christian culture with our fellow Christians. These ideas slithered into Christian culture over decades, so we shouldn’t expect to overturn them quickly. But we should try wherever we can, as it is cruel to deceive young women by telling them they are morally superior, and cruel to families to inject subversion and strife into Christian marriage.
*Stanton likes the story of his wife taking charge of his life so much he shared it two separate times during the lecture. Here is link to the other time he describes it.