You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice
–Exodus 23:1-2 ESV
In After Patriarchy, What? Why Egalitarians Are Winning the Evangelical Gender Debate Dr. Russell Moore takes secular commenters to task for bearing false witness against conservative evangelical men:
One of the most important pieces of sociological data in recent years comes from the University of Virginia’s W. Bradford Wilcox in his landmark book, Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands
[Wilcox] brings forth the demographic statistics and survey results on issues ranging from paternal hugging of children to paternal yelling, from female responses about marital happiness to the divisions of household labor. In virtually every category, the most conservative and evangelical households were also the “softest” in terms of familial harmony, relational happiness, and emotional health.
Unlike many secular university researchers, Wilcox actually studies real live evangelicals, rather than simply speculating on how such “misogynist throwbacks” must live. He has read what evangelicals read, listened to evangelical radio programs, and otherwise immersed himself in an evangelical subculture that few academics seem to understand. Wilcox demonstrates that his results are not an anomaly. It is not akin to discovering that nineteenth century slaveholders had less racist attitudes than northern abolitionists. Instead he shows that the “softness” of evangelical fathers is a result of patriarchy…
This raises the question, why do secular academics believe that conservative Christian men are selfish monsters who are forever abusing their wives, when the truth is quite easily observed? One obvious answer is the secular academics are merely listening to what conservative Christian leaders have to say about Christian husbands. If you read the conservative Christian press, there is no more vile group in our society than married Christian fathers. Articles like Ditch Your Delusions of Grandeur and Love Your Child are fan favorites over at CBMW.
The secular academics would get the same impression from reading Dr. Moore as well. Moore is constantly berating Christian husbands as wife abusers. In articles like The Church and Violence Against Women, Moore warns against the barbarian horde of hateful Christian married fathers with their selfish materialism, their libidinal fantasies, and wrathful temper tantrums:
We must teach from our pulpits, our Sunday school classes, and our Vacation Bible Schools that women are to be cherished, honored, and protected by men. This means we teach men to reject American playboy consumerism in light of a Judgment Seat at which they will give account for their care for their families. It means we explicitly tell the women in our congregations, “A man who hits you has surrendered his headship, and that is the business both of the civil state in enacting public justice and of this church in enacting church discipline.”
Church discipline against wife-beaters must be clear and consistent. We must stand with women against predatory men in all areas of abandonment, divorce, and neglect. We must train up men, through godly mentoring as well as through biblical instruction, who will know that the model of a husband is a man who crucifies his selfish materialism, his libidinal fantasies, and his wrathful temper tantrums in order to care lovingly for a wife. We must also remind these young men that every idle word, and every hateful act, will be laid out in judgment before the eyes of the One to whom we must give an answer.
Note that Moore knows the men he is maligning are, as a group, the softest in our society. It is truly baffling that Moore would on the one hand bemoan the fact that evangelical Christian husbands and fathers are wildly mis-characterized by secular academics, only to make it a practice to do the same. My only guess is that he and the others doing the same are assuming they aren’t doing real damage. It feels good, after all, and what can it hurt? Given that the charge is being made against millions of conservative Christian husbands, certainly it is bound to be true for at least a few of them. Perhaps a small percentage of this handful of men will become convicted after seeing all conservative Christian husbands painted in this way.
But this is profoundly destructive in multiple ways. The first is the obvious problem Moore complains about in the link above; he is reinforcing the same false stereotypes which are being used to sell feminist Christianity. The next problem is the marital strife these wild accusations inflame. Our feminist culture is telling Christian wives that they are being oppressed. Having Christian leaders constantly reinforcing this message is a sure fire prescription for at the very least marital strife, and in many cases this constant provocation will lead to divorce. Even if you don’t care about what you are doing to men and women, surely some thought should be given to the harm this is causing millions of children.
Lastly, there is the impact this constant maligning of married fathers has on young men. The message is clear: Married fathers are contemptible. This is true even for the young men who know, like Moore does, that in reality evangelical husbands are the very softest in our society. Young men don’t have to believe the outlandish charges to receive the very clear message that the married father is an object of deep contempt. Since respect is a primary motivator for men, how long can conservative Christian leaders keep this up before we start seeing a real impact on how young men see marriage and fatherhood? If good husbands and fathers aren’t respected, and if in fact marrying and becoming a father are reasons to lose respect for a man, why should a young Christian man want to pursue marriage and fatherhood?