The Kendrick brothers are masters of the head fake. In Fireproof they ended the film with the surprise revelation that the original Love Dare was done by a woman! We learn that Caleb’s mother submitted to her husband, and that Caleb’s father was won over without a word by his wife’s respectful and pure conduct. This plot twist is pointed to by defenders of the film as proof that the moral of the movie (saving your marriage through submission) is gender neutral. In theory, they explain, submission in marriage could apply to wives as well. What the defenders miss is that this surprise plot twist is the Kendrick brothers being astonishingly open that they have inverted Scripture.
I have not yet seen the movie War Room, but the defenders of the latest Kendrick brothers movie are pointing to a similar headfake. War room they argue is really the Kendrick brothers finally teaching submission to wives instead of husbands. One of the catchphrases of the film is:
Submission is ducking so God can hit your husband.
Girlfriend! Hand that rolling pin to God so that He can hit your husband with it even harder! This is the Christian feminist re-purposing of submission (just as feminists are busy re-purposing the military*), and is delivered in the movie by one of the women “ministers” at LifeWay, Beth Moore. Moore isn’t the only female LifeWay minister in the movie. The protagonist of the movie is played by Priscilla Shirer who is also a LifeWay minister.
Shirer explains in an interview that she took the role because the movie taught the same messages she already teaches in her ministry (emphasis mine):
At first my answer was ‘Heck no! There are real actors who do this sort of thing,’ but they just said Priscilla, just read the script first and lets pray about it and just see if God might have this in mind for all of us. After reading the script, I realized that it isn’t a departure from what I usually do, it’s a different way though of just saying the same message that I would want to say anyway. It’s another medium for ministry and I’m glad that I kind of stepped out in faith and pushed past any fear or intimidation that was saying you can’t do this, you’re not an actress or an accomplished actress. I’m glad that I took the adventure. It’s been fun.
Shirer is a perfect fit for the Kendrick brothers because she too is a master of the headfake. Back in 2011 she was interviewed for an article on submission titled Reclaiming the S-Word. In parts of the interview she seems like she might actually be teaching biblical submission (or at least heading in that direction). However, periodically the mask slips.
The interviewer asked Shirer if submission means “subservience” by the wife (the sin invented by the CBMW):
For many people, the term submit carries with it the stigma of subservience.
In reply, Shirer explains contra to Genesis that women aren’t inclined to rebel against their husbands unless their husbands are doing something wrong:
It is unfortunate that submission has really been given a bad rap. There is nothing that is supposed to be subservient, “doormat-ish” so to speak, or abusive about this word and its meaning. In Ephesians when the Lord began to describe submission in the family dynamic, the majority of the chapter was used to tell husbands how they were supposed to lead, not to tell women how they were to submit. If men do it the right way, if they are the kind of leaders described by God, then it will be the joy of the wife to submit to a husband like that.
Picking up on Shirer’s feminist framing, the interviewer asks:
What about the husband who has the wrong view of submission and is, in essence, a tyrant?
Shirer responds by lumping together husbands who command their wives to sin with physical abuse and the Christian feminist wildcard, “emotional abuse”. If a wife tries her husband and finds him guilty of any of the above, she is not to submit to him:
It is never the woman’s role to submit to a man who is leading her to sin, or if he is in any way being abusive to her whether emotionally or physically. In those cases, she should get away to safety. Submission has long been a ploy to get vulnerable women to stay with a guy who is not treating them appropriately. In its purest meaning, it is a gift given to a woman who does have a man that is seeking to lead in the way the Bible describes.
The interviewer follows up, asking if wives should submit to men who don’t seem to be leading. Shirer offers a qualified yes, but only if their husband has shown leadership in the past:
I would encourage a wife to ask herself, When we were dating, did he take the backseat? If the answer is no and he showed initiative and drive and leadership when you were dating, then the reality probably is that you have, over time, usurped his authority. And in those cases, I want you to know that what has been done can be undone. Prayerfully give him back the reigns.
When asked why Christian women bristle at the idea of submission, Shirer overlooks the reason the Bible has told us women will bristle at it, and explains that this is one of the rare bad things to come out of feminism (emphasis mine):
I think that deep down most women would love to be in a relationship with a great man — they might not call it submission, but when you think about the dynamics of it we love to be in a relationship when a man has taken charge. When you water down submission to the bare parts, most women desire that. But there is a fear that has been instilled in us predominantly by the feminist movement. The feminist movement has given us many things, but one thing it has stolen from us is the right not to feel like we’ve lost our dignity when we choose to submit to the leading of a good guy.
See the full interview, as there is too much to quote (including a variant of duck so God can hit your husband). Note also that not only does Shirer tell us that she took the role because the movie teaches the same message she teaches, but that she wrote the companion book for women which was released with War Room (just as she did for Courageous). The title alone will make every Christian Xeena’s heart swell. This isn’t a book for quiet, submissive doormats. This is a book for kick-ass Christian gals everywhere: Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer
A quick search with Amazon’s “look inside” tool indicates that the words “submit” and “submission” are not included in the book:
Given what Shirer has to teach on the topic of submission, I would say it is a good thing it never comes up. However, this is one more nail in he coffin of the claim that War Room isn’t just another in a long line** of Kendrick brothers movies tearing down husbands and fathers, but a movie about the power of wives practicing biblical submission.
*That this movie featuring women as warriors was released during the height of the push to fully integrate women in combat is no coincidence. Christian feminists very often take their cues from secular feminists, and War Room is perfectly tuned to the modern Christian preference to see women as fierce warriors rather than the “doormats” with quiet gentle spirits of the bad old days.
**Their very first movie Flywheel has an eerily similar plot to War Room. Like War Room, Flywheel is about a dastardly Christian husband and father who lies, cheats, and steals, much to the consternation of his godly wife and child.