Is the problem a lack of listening or a lack of submitting?

In She Only Acted Crazy To Get Her Own Way, Dalrock asserted:

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”

In Just Shut Up and Listen, I tested the validity of Dalrock’s assertion by examining one of the most popular Christian marriage curricula of the present day, The Art of Marriage, and found that Dalrock’s assertion was confirmed.  I then reiterated how this listen to your wife=obey your wife teaching directly contradicts the Bible by inverting the Christian marital hierarchy of headship and submission.

Insanitybytes took exception and asserted that the problem isn’t wives throwing tantrums to get their own way but rather husbands who abuse their wives by not listening to them. She commented (highlighting mine):

Sometimes men don’t understand the seriousness of the situation and women need a way to get their attention. Men like Dalrock have no idea WTH they are talking about and “never listen to your wife” is so anti biblical it makes my blood boil. Men are to love their wives like Christ loves the church. Does God not hear our prayers? Does God not listen to us? Does God not preserve our mental health?

I’ve addressed this several times. Not listening to your wife is psychological abuse. Not being heard sent this woman into an emotional crisis, one in which she was destroying her wedding china.

So, we all agree that examples of wives wildly acting out are highlighted by the Christian media as worthy of emulation.  What we obviously don’t all agree on is what is causing this acting out.  Thus the question we need to answer is this: Are these out-of-control behaviors caused by (as Dalrock asserts) wives who want to get their own way or by (as IB asserts) husbands who won’t listen to their wives at all?

In other words, is this a lack of listening or a lack of submitting?

Let us find another example of a wife exhibiting multiple instances of acting out in a rather unhinged manner.  My example for this post comes from As For Me and My House: Crafting Your Marriage to Last by Pastor Walter Wangerin (you can click the title above to read the parts I quote from in this post via google books):

The first thing to note is that Pastor Wangerin is not part of the evangelical marriage industry.  He has been a Lutheran pastor for many years, serving for a number of years in an inner-city congregation.  He is also a fantasy author, well known for The Book of the Dun Cow, among others.  I’m very fond of Pastor Wangerin’s writings, and about five years ago I read his book on marriage.  There is some very good teaching in it, but one of the things that stood out to me even then, before I had really thought these things through, was a series of anecdotes about a troubled time in his marriage.

At the beginning of the story, Pastor Wangerin and his wife have been married for some years when he wakes one night to find his wife not in bed. He gets up to look for her and find her crying alone in the dark in the living room.  He is terribly worried and begs her to tell him what is wrong but she refuses even to speak to him. She gets up, runs to the bathroom, slams the door, still refusing to speak to him, and bursts into fresh, angry tears.  He continues the story on page 75:

How long can a silence last? Long. How long could Thanne continue not talking to me – not talking, at least, of matters crucial to our spirits and our relationship? Long. Thanne had a gift for silences. And after the night when I found her awake I suffered a bewildered misery.

Oh, I was such a fool in those days. But I was working blind. What could I do, if she wouldn’t talk to me?

No: I was a fool in those days. I did not see that even my efforts at healing hurt her. Well, I wasn’t looking at these present efforts, only at past actions to find the fault; but, in fact, the fault was consistently there, in me, in all that I was doing. Therefore, I kept making things worse for all my good intentions. I was a walking fault!

At night she always went to bed before I did. When I came to the bedroom, carefully shading the light from her eyes, doing everything possible to care for her, I always found her turned away, curled tightly on her side, at the very edge of the bed. Her cheek was the only flash I saw, and the corner of her eye – closed. Was she sleeping? I didn’t know.  I was scared to ask, scared to wake her if she was, and scared she wouldn’t answer if she wasn’t. I got under covers cursing creaky bed springs. And my heart broke to see the cheek I could not touch. Her skin was no longer mine.

“Did you sleep well?” I asked in the morning, as casually as I could.

Thanne was growing pale, gaunt in her thinness, drawn around the mouth parentheses (from so long, so pinched a silence).  Her hair broke at the ends, dry. She fixed breakfast for the children in her house coat. Her poor ankles were flour-white.

“Did you sleep well?”

Thanne flashed me a glance as sharp as a scalpel. “I didn’t sleep,” she said and slapped eggs on plates. Her tone said volumes, but left the interpretation to me: because of you.  Or, what’s it to you? Or, you asked me just to rub it in. Or why don’t you just go to work? I could take my pick. I left for work.

But I was not a bad man, was I? I didn’t fool around with women – that’s worth something in this world, isn’t it? I didn’t fritter away our money, or beat her, or even talk back to her. I wasn’t a drunkard. What I was, was a pastor! I had given even my professional life to God. I was a good man! Then where was the problem between us?

All day I argued my defense in my own mind. All day I truly suffered a stomach pain which felt very much like homesickness and intolerable loneliness. It prickled my back to think how much I loved Thanne; but it drew my gut into a knot to remember that we were not talking. And the knot was guilt; but the knot was self-pity, too. For God’s sake, what did I do?

In the evening I planned to prove my goodness to her. I vacuumed the living room. With mighty snaps, I shook out all the rugs in our house. When the children had gone to bed (so quietly, so quietly, like mice sneaking beneath their parents’ silences) I noticed that Thanne hadn’t yet done the dishes. Good! I thought. My opportunity! And I rolled up my sleeves to help her out.

But when I was halfway through the pans I felt the hairs on my neck stand up – as though the Lantern had haunted our kitchen. I paused in the greasy water. I turned and saw Thanne standing in the doorway, glaring at me in silent fury, her thin arms folded at her chest.

She hissed, “You are just trying to make me feel guilty.”  She disappeared from the doorway and went to bed.

No – but I thought I was trying to help. The dirty pans beside me made me sad.

He continues on to describe several more stories in which his wife acted out crazily, including leaving home on a Sunday afternoon without telling her husband where she was going, or when/if she would return.  Because they had guests coming over for dinner and he did not know if she would return, he cancelled the get-together, only to have her return a few minutes before the dinner party was to begin and throw a massive tantrum about his having canceled it. Disturbingly, he writes of this event:

I knew for sure that Thanne was right.  I had sinned terribly against her, sins which I will name before this chapter is done so you will understand that it wasn’t a single act or a number of acts: it was I myself. I was sin.

 Finally it is revealed that she was upset about him being gone so much for work, attending to his pastoral duties, and not prioritizing her enough (this should look very familiar to you; it was also the reason for the tantrums of Mrs. Bright, Mrs. Keller, and Mrs.Wilson).  Furthermore, as a pastor’s wife she felt like she was losing her own identity. Part of the resolution involved Pastor Wangerin watching the children more often so she could pursue her desire to get a degree in computer programming.

Pastor Wangerin had repeatedly pleaded with his wife to talk to him and tell him what was wrong; not only was he NOT “abusing” her by refusing to listen to her, he was actually begging her to tell him the problem. yet she would not.  She not only threw tantrum after tantrum to get her own way – having her husband home more so she could pursue personal fulfillment – but she wouldn’t even tell him what was wrong.  She faulted him for not being observant enough to read the situation without her having to say anything.

Pastor Wangerin goes on to explain some of the little ways he treated his wife unkindly; he was not blameless.  Yet the overarching reason for Mrs. Wangerin’s tantrums clearly was not that he did not listen to her but rather that she wanted to have her own way and thus continued escalating her behavior until he finally got the message (and leaving without telling your spouse when or if you ever plan to return is clearly a message with an implicit threat to it).

Let us answer the question I posed at the beginning – is this a lack of listening or a lack of submitting?  We can see that listening was not the problem in the Wangerin home, which means the problem was primarily a lack of wifely submission.  And once again, a Christian pastor has held his wife’s lack of submission up as good and sound teaching for other Christian women.

Edit: I misidentified Mrs. Bright as Mrs. Rainey originally.

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Why so many people are confused about marital roles.

During my lunch break today I read the following Dear Abby letter:

http://entertainment.suntimes.com/lifestyles/dear-abby-seeking-ways-tell-daughter-truth-father/

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I were going along in life, doing it our way, until we decided we wanted to return to the church, so we stopped drinking and smoking pot. We hit a rough patch in that journey and divorced, but we didn’t stop going to church. It’s crazy, I know. After we divorced, I knew I messed up and deep down I knew I loved him.

So, now that we have remarried, it seems like he’s taking the role of Christian husband back to biblical times. This means he is the head of the house (which I get), but to the point where I am almost like a fixture. I would say I’m here for my looks, but I am overweight. I would say it’s for the sex, but it isn’t happening morning, noon and night, if you know what I mean. I would say it is the money, but now, after his last raise, he makes more than I do.

He cooks most of the time because he gets home before me. The house is always clean, and we share the household bills and expenses. So, I’m kinda lost and confused. Do I have a purpose here? Or am I only here to help pay the bills? — STARTING TO WONDER

Here was “Abby’s” advice:

DEAR STARTING TO WONDER: Only your husband can answer that question. However, part of a husband’s duties to his wife is to make her feel “honored and cherished,” and if that isn’t happening, your remarriage is in trouble.

Marriage counseling (possibly within the church) might help you to reconnect with each other, and I strongly recommend it. Unless you find out why you’re unhappy and fix it, this marriage will not last.

One’s initial reaction might be to mock the wife, but when you actually stop and think about it for a moment, her feelings of being lost and confused are also rather poignant and touching. She instinctively senses that something is wrong here – that a husband being “head of household” shouldn’t really be synonymous with “doing everything himself”.

This couple is confused because they are trying to “do” marriage under several sets of different, competing rules all while getting no helpful teaching but plenty of bad advice.  Previously they obviously had an egalitarian marriage in which they split the earning and household management evenly. Since becoming Christians, her husband is trying to figure out what the biblical role of “husband” is supposed to entail, and he’s obviously figured out that he is supposed to be the head of the marriage. But he has no practical understanding of what that looks like, so he is simply taking it to mean, “I am the head, therefore it must be my responsibility to do everything myself and require nothing of those of whom I am the head.”

The wife sees that things have changed, but she has no concept that her husband being the head requires her to be “under” his headship. She also doesn’t seem to understand that she has duties that, as a Christian wife, she is supposed to be fulfilling. But don’t mock her; how would she know what those roles are? She may have read a few verses in the Bible about women submitting to their husbands (or not), but it’s unlikely that she has had any helpful teaching about this from other Christians.

Now, common sense also seems to be lacking here. Obviously a wife with a clue would say to herself, “Gee, my husband is working hard. What could I do to please him?” She seems to have a sneaking suspicion about some of the things she could do: take care of her health and appearance by losing some weight, making sure that physical intimacy is happening somewhat regularly, and perhaps taking on some additional responsibilities around the home since her husband now out-earns her. But my suspicion is that she doesn’t really want to do these things very much as they may be difficult, and she’d rather coast along and is looking for moral cover to do so.  This is probably why she went to someone like “Dear Abby” with her question instead of taking it to God or another mature Christian.

Still, we can forgive this couple for their confusion. It would be really helpful if pastors could step up and deliver some practical sermons on biblical marriage roles.

But the one we can truly be disgusted with here is “Dear Abby”. Now, clearly Abby is not a Christian, so we can assume she gives lip service to egalitarian marriage. But here is where the rubber meets the road; here we have a man who is doing nearly everything and a woman who is not pulling her fair share, but instead of telling the wife to step up her game, Abby blames the husband! Not only is he supposed to do everything, he’s also supposed to make his wife feel honored and cherished while he does it! Not only is that not biblical, it’s not even egalitarian.

Since they are Christians, we can pray for this couple to find wisdom from God about what the biblical marriage roles of headship and submission look like in a practical context.  However, it is no wonder men and women are lost and confused. Pastors are often too cowardly to teach accurately on biblical marriage for fear of offending their congregants, and the secular advice-givers actively promote a fake egalitarian model.

 

Domination is not destruction.

The earth was given to Man to dominate:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”Genesis 1:26-28)

A quote from this interview with Kelly Ware, a permaculture practitioner and Christian, caught my attention:

“We were put on earth as stewards, to take care of the garden, and our domination thing, that we’re able to, you know, dominate is that we make the choices for things.  We say this plant goes, this plant stays, this earth works needs to happen.  So I really think that in terms of empowering ourselves to do earth works, because you’re changing a lot of things, but we’ve been given that right, to dominate and through that job that we were designed to do, which is steward creation.

According to Merriam Webster, domination means:

  1. supremacy or preeminence over another
  2. exercise of mastery or ruling power
  3. exercise of preponderant, governing, or controlling influence

Notice one thing that the word dominate does not mean: destroy.

Many conservatives seem to believe that domination and destruction are synonymous.  Ann Coulter writes:

The ethic of conservation is the explicit abnegation of man’s dominion over the Earth. The lower species are here for our use.  God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet — it’s yours. That’s our job: drilling, mining and stripping.

Is this truly what God says in the Bible?  Let us check:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15)

It is Man’s job to dominate and subdue the earth not by raping and destroying it but rather by working and keeping it.  The reason for working and keeping the earth isn’t because the earth is an object worthy of spiritual adoration, as environmentalists and some permaculture practitioners believe, but rather because God gave it to us for sustenance and human flourishing:

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (Genesis 1:29)

Environmentalists, who are nearly all liberals, frequently fantasize about the elimination of humans from the earth due to the mistaken belief that the earth would be “better off” without us.  They see Man’s domination of the earth as inherently sinful (I use the word sinful to describe their religious-like beliefs because liberalism is their religion and is as authoritarian in its moral prescriptions as any other religion or political orientation).

Some secular permaculturists share the opinion that Man’s domination of the earth is Bad, bad, bad! but others do not, as this quote demonstrates:

Societies and their inhabitant are the reason that ecosystems (such as the Amazon Rainforest) are abundant in bio-diversity and life. In Permaculture it is constantly reinforced that human disturbance leads to environmental degradation; however, new evidence strongly concludes that without human disturbance, eco-systems would not be as thriving if humans were out of the picture.

In addition to the earth, Woman was also given to be under Man’s dominion:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

Women, kindly read that verse again.  For whom were we created?  For him.  And to whom were we given?

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:22)

Woman was given to Man to be under his dominion, not so that he can destroy her but so that he can cultivate a helper for his work of having dominion over the earth. This is where feminists, like environmentalists, get it wrong. They correctly perceive that some men are using their God-given dominion to destroy rather than cultivate their women, and they decide that Man’s domination itself is the problem, when in fact sin (destruction) is the problem.

We moderns see the word domination used in the man/woman context almost solely in the sense of sexually perverse role plays, but this is not what Christians should understand it to mean, not even when the context is the marital act.  Rather, the godly husband takes dominion over his wife and cultivates her to better fulfill her role as his helper in his domination (cultivation) of the earth.

Pastor Doug Wilson explained this well in something he wrote a few years ago:

A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.  This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.

People lost their minds when he wrote this, with Christian feminist Rachel Held Evans writing:

It’s not about sex. It’s not about church leadership. It’s not about roles. It’s not about the Bible.

It’s about power.

It’s about whether or not patriarchy—man’s rule over woman—really represents God’s ideal for the world. 

And I believe, with every bone in my body, that patriarchy is a result of sin. I believe that followers of Jesus are to be champions of equality, and that it is our calling…

But a man conquering a woman does not implicitly mean he destroys her.  A man who conquers his wife in the sense that Pastor Wilson means is cultivating a family.  His dominion leads to flourishing rather than destruction.

Although it is pagan in spiritual orientation, I love the blog Bealtine Cottage, a site written by a woman in Ireland who bought a derelict cottage on some old agricultural land that was badly damaged by conventional farming practices and transformed it using permaculture gardening techniques into a gorgeous food forest.  Her stories and photos are fascinating.  However, the authoress Ms.O’Neill has misunderstood what domination of the earth and Woman by Man means.  She writes:

“As this era of masculine dominance comes to an end and a feminine understanding of life’s wholeness is included, we are beginning to experience a different world in which physical, mental, and spiritual well-being are interdependent.”

A limited and patriarchal interpretation of the Creator, has given us a male figure, with the female as subservient.

Dominance of Nature and continuous war has ensued…

It is clear from the Bible that God gave the earth and Woman to Man not to destroy but rather to cultivate, as we saw in Genesis 2:15.  It isn’t that male domination destroys the earth or women; it is that after the fall, men sometimes use their God-given right to dominate the earth for destructive purposes, rather than using their domination of the earth and their women to cultivate a flourishing garden and thriving families.  The solution isn’t to reject the order of creation that God intended, that of loving domination by Man, but rather for men to teach one another (something women absolutely cannot do) to use their God-given right of dominion to cultivate rather than destroy and then insist that it be so.

Part of the chaff of modernity is the belief that humans having dominion (domination) over the earth and Man having dominion (domination) over Woman is inherently destructive.  This is not true.  Only sinful behavior is destructive.  Godly dominion does not destroy; rather, it cultivates so that all which is under dominion flourishes.