There is a well loved refrain, especially among complementarians, that men need to “step up”. This is a deceptive phrase, because in reality the objective is to allow men to avoid what is difficult and uncomfortable. It is false bravado used to mask paralyzing fear. What is being avoided is addressing the feminist elephant in the middle of the room.
For example, over the past decades we have witnessed an explosion in out of wedlock births. Feminists have been entirely open about their desire to make single motherhood an attractive option for women, and after decades of social and legal “progress” 40% of all children are now born out of wedlock in the US.
For feminist Christians this isn’t a problem, as they can simply celebrate their victory while pushing for even more “progress”. But for complementarians and other conservative Christians, this poses a huge challenge. How can they appear to take biblical morality (and the welfare of innocent children) seriously while avoiding upsetting women in our thoroughly feminized culture? There is only one answer, no matter how absurd it is. The answer is to pretend that feminists aren’t really in the final mopping up stages in the culture war, and assert instead that what we are experiencing is a sudden and mysterious change in men. Here is how Glenn Stanton, the Director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family (FotF), explains the incredible increase we are seeing in out of wedlock births*:
Women want to marry and have daddies for their babies. But if they can’t find good men to commit themselves to, well… Our most pressing social problem today is a man deficit.
The level of denial here is astonishing, and would be laughable if it weren’t entirely commonplace. Even more astounding, often times the denial of feminism is expressed using feminist terminology, and even includes calls to join feminists in their push to re order our society**:
Whatever our views on specific economic policies, we must recognize that much economic hardship of women in our age is the result of men who abandon their commitments. We should eschew obnoxious “welfare queen” rhetoric and work with others of goodwill to seek economic and social measures to provide a safety net for single mothers and abused women in jeopardy. We should join with others, including secular feminists, in seeking legal protections against such manifestations of a rape culture as sexual harassment, prostitution, and sex slavery.
The quote above is from Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. As Moore himself explains, this makes him the head of:
the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination
Previously Moore was the Chairman of the Board for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
As astonishing as the above two examples are, they merely scratch the surface. The pattern exists across complementarian/conservative Christian organizations, and across the full spectrum of issues where a Christian approach would offend feminists. In response to women demanding to be allowed to join all units of our armed forces (just as they have demanded in the civilian world), conservative Christians deny the very open feminist rebellion, and pretend instead that cowardly men are forcing brave women to serve in their place. Doug Phillips’ now defunct Vision Forum offers a perfect example with America the Barbarous: New Pentagon Policy Sanctions Women in Combat:
…our nation’s leaders — in the name of “empowering” women — are now self-consciously placing women in combat units to be shot at and killed as men.
…Does this “enlightened policy” represent the fullest expression of Woman, as feminists would have us believe?
Not hardly. It represents an abolition of womanhood and the perversion of God’s design. It represents a deeply-rooted rebellion against the natural roles and functions by which God has distinguished manhood from womanhood.
Women are to be cherished as the weaker sex, not exploited to fill the roster of an army. Combat is the province of men, and God calls on men to protect women and children. Men fight when their homes and communities are threatened by wicked regimes and lawless rogues who would despoil their loved ones. When necessary, men carry weapons into battle and give their lives to preserve the liberty and sanctity of those they hold dear.
It is barbarians who place their women in the midst of war’s brutalities to fight as men. This is what pagan tribes in Scotland did before they were Christianized and embraced the “Law of the Innocents,” written by the evangelist Adomnan, which forbade sending women into battle.
Though America possesses advanced weaponry and great military might, we have become a nation of barbarians.
It is high time that we as a people repent of our barbarism — that we cherish our women as women, and call on our men to act as men.
Bizarrely, the piece implicitly acknowledges that feminist women in rebellion against God’s role for them are the ones who have insisted on this change for decades. Yet Vision Forum’s solution to women’s rebellion against God is not to confront the rebellion (something terrifying). The closing call to action is for men to act as men and stop insisting that women fight in their place. The idea that women aren’t insisting to join the military, but that cowardly men are forcing women to do so is absurd. It is laughable to everyone who isn’t a complementarian Christian. But in the complementarian Christian world this fantasy land approach to women’s overt rebellion is a closely held doctrine.
Women in combat should be the easiest part of feminism for conservative Christian leaders to oppose, and that even here conservative Christians are terrified of offending rebellious women is most telling.
While very few women in conservative Christian circles want to dress as men and serve in combat, nearly all of them have married or hope to marry. Not surprisingly, the same ridiculous gymnastics are used to deny the much more proximate mass rebellion against the biblical instruction to wives. If a wife is frigid and defrauds her husband, it is not a sin but a sign that God is angry with the husband (Pastor Dave Wilson, and Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.). If a wife throws a tantrum in order to get her way, it is not rebellion but a form of submission called a Godly tantrum (Pastor Tim Keller, co-founder and vice president of The Gospel Coalition). If a wife is contentious, it is proof that her husband is not communicating enough (Dr. Clarke & FotF president Jim Daly) or loving her enough (Pastor Strauss). If a wife fornicated before marriage, it is her husband’s fault (Dr. Russell Moore).
Pastor Chandler, President of the complementarian Acts 29 Network of churches, takes it a step further and offers a blanket statement on all possible areas a wife might be tempted into feminist rebellion. If a wife ever feels the temptation of feminist rebellion, it means her husband is oppressing her:
Really, men, here is a great way to gauge how you’re serving, loving, and practicing your headship. If the most secularized feminist in the world showed up in your home and began to kind of coach your wife toward freedom and liberation from your tyranny, our wives should be so well cared for, so nourished, so sowed into and loved, they would say, “What you’re describing is actually tyranny. I love where I am. I am honored. I am encouraged. My man sacrifices so that I might grow in my gifts. He will oftentimes lay down his own desires in order to serve me more. My husband goes to bed tired at night. He pours in to our children. He encourages me. All that comes out of his mouth, sans a couple of little times here and there, is him building me up in love.”
Men, here is a good opportunity. If you’re like, “Well, gosh, I don’t think she would say that at all,” then, men, I think on the way home, you should probably repent and confess before the Lord to your wife.
See also: Step up, so they don’t have to (part 2).
*Glenn Stanton, Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity
**HT Darwinian Arminian