Over the course of two comments on Unhinged, Brand complained that I failed to point out how calculating Kathy Keller was in her “godly tantrum”:
This isn’t strictly speaking correct. It is true that according to the book the emotional outburst is presented as contrived. However, the explanation is not that the three pieces of their wedding china that she destroyed were already broken, but that they no longer had matching cups. As Tim Keller explains in the book, once he had submitted to her will she was suddenly calm:
Finally I inquired, “When I first came out here I thought you were having an emotional meltdown. How did you get control of yourself so fast?”
With a grin she answered, “It was no meltdown. Do you see these three broken saucers I smashed?” I nodded. “I have no cups for them. The cups have broken over the years. I had three saucers to spare. I’m glad you sat down before I had to break any more!”
But contrived as it was, Kathy was still very clearly out of control emotionally. She was in the opposite of the state that the Apostle Peter urges wives to cultivate in 1 Pet 3. She was the opposite of a gentle and quiet spirit.
It is also essential to remember that Tim and Kathy are using this episode of Kathy’s rebellion as an example for Christian wives to emulate. They are teaching Kathy’s “godly” rebellion as submission, and the message is getting through as intended. Their theology of the godly tantrum is a message modern Christians are thirsty for in this feminist age.
Rev. Sam Brown of Grace Presbyterian Church cites Tim and Kathy’s teaching in his sermon 1 Peter 3:1-7 – Wives, Husbands, and the Curse Undone (emphasis mine):
But for every marriage in which the man is a sinner, the hope here is that God may use His daughter to open the eyes of her husband. She may not even need to speak a word because the Spirit inside her will speak louder than she ever could.
Tim Keller, a pastor in New York, wrote a book with his wife, Kathy, which I’d commend to you. It’s called The Meaning of Marriage and in it Kathy tells a story from their early years of church planting in the city when he was working long hours and was neglecting his family. So, she says, she threw a “godly tantrum.”
“I took the china, and took them out to our balcony and when he came in I was smashing them with the hammer. I had to do some dramatic thing to get his attention to show he was breaking things.”
That image doesn’t exactly fit the stereotypical image of a “submissive” wife, does it? And yet it was a godly woman respectfully and violently showing her husband what she needed from him.
Similarly, Brittany Smith at the Christian Post cites Kathy’s rebellion as an example of submission in Kathy Keller: Submission Doesn’t Mean You Do Everything the Husband Says
The Kellers also made it clear that being submissive does not mean the wife can’t push back or confront her spouse.
Kathy Keller used an example from her own life when she went to extremes to get her husband’s attention. She said they moved to New York to start Redeemer, where Tim is lead pastor, and in the first four years he was working all the time.
Kathy Keller feared that he was neglecting his duties as a father and a husband, and was not freeing up any time for other pursuits. So she said she had a “godly tantrum.”
“I took the china, and took them out to our balcony and when he came in I was smashing them with the hammer. I had to do some dramatic thing to get his attention to show he was breaking things,” she said.
They said that this can work in marriages where spouses are having trouble communicating, or if they don’t have the same view of submission.
There is another point worth bringing up in this episode, and that is the meaning of the complementarian expression “listen to your wife”. This is another case where the complementarian expression means something quite different than what the words would suggest on their face. Just like “servant leader” doesn’t mean headship, and “submission” means rebellion, “listen to your wife” doesn’t mean simply listen to her. When spoken by a complementarian, “listen to your wife” means do as she says (emphasis mine):
I sat down trembling. I thought she had snapped. “I’m listening. I’m listening,” I said. As we talked it became clear that she was intense and laser focused, but she was not in a rage or out of control emotionally. She spoke calmly but forcefully. Her arguments were the same as they had been for months, but I realized how deluded I had been. There would never be a convenient time to cut back. I was addicted to the level of productivity I had achieved. I had to do something. She saw me listening for the first time and we hugged.
Note that they had been discussing this for months. He had heard her arguments but didn’t agree with her on the correct decision. This is what complementarians call “not listening”. “Listening” means agreeing with her.
See also: The crazy dictator.