Thoughts on Christian Marriage Teachings, Part Three

Image courtesy of Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on March 20, 2015.

Part Two

I can’t talk about bad Christian marriage teachings without addressing one of the most common ones that tends to lead to all the rest of them. It goes something like this:

“The husband is the head of the family. He is the spiritual leader. He is responsible for the spiritual life and growth of his wife and children. God’s blessings to the family come through the husband and father who is connected to God. A man out of sync with God can take down his family. A woman submits to God by submitting to her husband’s leadership. A woman cannot usurp her husband’s spiritual leadership or God will not bless the family. “

There’s variations of those sentiments, but that’s about the gist of it. A family cannot be a godly family, or a successful family, without the spiritual leadership of a godly man. The requirements for such a man are numerous and many words have been written and spoken and debated about them. Everything from “must lead family worship every day” to “must be active in the church” to “must lead his wife with the Word of God”.

It is clear from most Christian marriage books, conferences, and counseling material that when the man fails in his duty of spiritual leader, the family will also fail. Failure to lead spiritually is the root of all manner of dysfunction and sin in a family. This has caused a lot of women much heartache as they call into Christian radio programs or sit crying with their pastors over their husband’s behavior and character flaws. His sin? “Not being a spiritual leader.” Consider this article from Family Life Today, a program that is considered solid Christian family material, whose founders do marriage conferences around the U.S.:

“How can I motivate my husband to get right with God and become the spiritual leader of our family? This question represents the longing of many wives who are growing in their faith but are married to men whose Christian growth seems stagnant or who seem unwilling to take the spiritual lead in the family. If one of these represents your situation, realize that you are not alone.”

The article goes on to showcase the various popular teachings on what a husband is expected to do and what happens when he isn’t following through. It also goes into the expectations of a wife whose husband is failing at leading. And, in a very predictable manner, blames the wife for her husband’s shortcomings. Because that’s how it always ends up in this paradigm: the wife wasn’t submissive enough, or godly enough, or giving enough sex, or being spiritual enough, or being quiet and meek enough, or she usurped his authority and dared to lead for a bit, and THAT’S why her husband isn’t doing her job. “…carefully evaluate if you are inhibiting your husband’s spiritual leadership by taking the lead yourself….[if] he is instinctively looking to you to set the spiritual atmosphere in the home because of your experience or your spiritual maturity, you may actually be robbing him of the opportunity to become the leader God desires.”Oh noes. Men’s leadership abilites are apparently so fragile as to disappear altogether if the wife doesn’t submit properly. It doesn’t matter if she is actually better equipped than he is, it’s his job and she better not do it, for the sake of their family’s spiritual status.

In another article by Focus on the Family, entitled “How Do I Spiritually Lead My Family?”, the author explains:

“Naturally, there is a great deal of controversy in the church today surrounding the precise meaning of these words. Some husbands wonder, “What am I supposed to do – act like a preacher?” Some wives ask, “Why is he supposed to be the only spiritual leader? Why can’t we both do it?” In the end, it all comes down to a very simple and fundamental truth: families need leaders. The buck has to stop somewhere if the household is to function smoothly and efficiently.”

He then goes on to give out some basic qualifications on what this looks like practically, such as  “he must have a strong connection with his Heavenly Father, finding his happiness in Christ first, realizing that he can lead effectively only if he maintains an intimate relationship with the Lord.”

When you get into popular theologians like John Piper and John MacArthur, you get even more specific and deeper into the murk of the teachings on male spiritual leadership. Piper says,

“I define spiritual leadership as knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to use God’s methods to get them there in reliance on God’s power…If we would be the kind of leaders we ought to be, we must make it our aim to develop persons rather than dictate plans. You can get people to do what you want, but if they don’t change in their heart you have not led them spiritually. You have not taken them to where God wants them to be.”

His following list of how to benevolently dictate the lives of everyone under him in the name of God is very long and tedious and I would imagine looks a bit overwhleming to your average husband, father, and church-leader

I once shared this:

“What I didn’t realize until recently was just how much my husband was hurting from these teachings. I remember going to church without him one week years ago and listening to a guest speaker rail on the men for not being better leaders, better husbands, and better fathers. (This was his usual sermon when he visited.) How I wished my husband had been there! I confess I thought he could use a good ass-whipping to be the man he wasn’t being (and since I was trying to be the perfect submissive wife, I certainly couldn’t give it to him). When I told him later who spoke, he muttered under his breath “Another guilt-trip for not being a good enough man. Oh yay.” That hit me hard.”

I was so convinced that our marriage wasn’t working, our family was falling apart, and I was being stunted spiritually all because my husband wasn’t interested in spiritual matters. At least, not to the extent that everyone said he should be. I was the woman in the article I posted first, from Family Life Today, wringing my hands because the man who was supposed to be in control of not only my physical life, but my spiritual growth, wasn’t doing his job. I was stuck. I felt hopeless. I had no concept at all that I could be in control of my own spiritual growth or that of my children, no concept of autonomy or agency. 

And this brings me to one of the biggest problems with these teachings. They cause women to be stuck. If your man is supposed to be your leader but he’s not leading, and if blessings from God are supposed to come through your man but he’s not doing his job to get the blessings, and if you are told that you must always submit and always respect and never usurp his authority by leading your family yourself because that’s Satan tempting Eve, then what is a woman to do? Well, she manipulatesShe jumps through hoops to grovel to her husband’s position over her while still passive-aggressively manipulating her man to do what she wants him to. The much-revered book on marriage, Created to Be His Helpmeet, is an entire book on how a woman can manipulate her man to do what she and God wants while still being a submissive “godly woman”.  It becomes the only option left. Real communication cannot happen in such an atmosphere.

Women are inferior in this paradigm because they cannot lead themselves but must depend on a man — a man who is naturally superior in position and spirituality. Though no complementarian teacher will admit this and many protest against the idea, there is no way to operate within this worldview without spiritual and physical inequality between the sexes. They say things like “equal in value but not equal in role”. They can try to redefine “value” all they want but it doesn’t change the practicality that women are inferior in this teaching. 

The fact of the matter is, no one is responsible for me except me. No one is my “spiritual leader”. I am my own person with my own beliefs and my own journey and NONE of that is dependent on my husband. Because he is his own person with his own journey too and that’s not dependent on me. We walk our own paths even as we have chosen to walk together. To say that a marriage can only work if the husband is the spiritual leader is ridiculous. Look outside this narrow worldview for one moment and see all the marriages that have worked and are working splendidly without a male leader. Or with the wife leading. Or with one or both of them atheists and no spirituality whatsoever. Or with equal partnerships. Or in Egalitarian Christian marriages. Or in any number of variables and beliefs and situations. Look outside the confines of the cages built by the Complementarian leadership of the American Church and breathe free air for a minute. Then tell me I should go back to a system that says I can’t be anything without my husband’s leadership. That my children will go to hell because he doesn’t go to church or lead prayer or ever talk about God with them, regardless of whether he is a good husband and good father. That it’s probably all my fault the formula isn’t working because it’s always the wife’s fault in this paradigm when her husband isn’t doing his job.

I watch as conservative religious friends go to various marriage seminars where they are instructed on how to have a good marriage within the confines of complementarian teachings. They come back all fired up and high off repenting for not being submissive enough and not being loving enough. But it never lasts. And after a while, back they go to another conference to have it instilled yet again how to operate their relationship in forced, gendered, hierarchical ways. Some manage to last, many don’t. It’s no wonder to me that marriages in these confines need so much encouragement, so many books, yet another conference. Because this type of relationship is not sustainable. Not in a healthy way, not for very long.

Now contrast everything I wrote above with how my marriage is now, years after giving up the teachings of male spiritual leadership. We are equal partners. We are free to use our strengths for the growth of our family without worrying that I’m not being submissive enough or he’s not being leaderly enough. I can call him out when he’s being unreasonable and he can tell me when I’m being a butthead and we can set up boundaries to ensure healthy communication and actions without some weird hierarchical paradigm within which we to try to manipulate each other. We are individual, separate, independent people who adore doing life together and are free to do that in a way that works best for us. I am strong and free to operate my own life and he is free from the burden of treating me as child that needs his direction. We offer each other support, wisdom, criticism, trust, respect, and love. We are not bound by gender roles that force us into unnatural ways of being. We are free. So very free, to be ourselves for each other and for our children. And it is a beautiful thing to behold. Because where freedom lives, love can grow in leaps and bounds.

Once again, giving up saved our marriage. And we didn’t even need a marriage conference to do it.

End of series.

Thoughts on Christian Marriage Teachings, Part Two

Image courtesy of Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on March 17, 2015.

< Part One

So with my story in mind from Part 1, let’s talk about the teachings that claim that without the Christian god, marriage cannot work.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the problems with that belief. But it does take objectivity and willingness to look outside the confines of your world and paradigm. The fact is that marriages, all relationships really, work just fine (or don’t) across all religious and ethnic and historic boundaries.Atheists, Catholics, Protestants of every flavor, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, New Age folks, Pagans, Wiccans, Mormons, Jews, and every combination of these have had great, life-long, healthy marriages throughout history (they’ve also all fucked up a lot of relationships). So what is the constant there? Because it obviously isn’t the Christian God.

Christians think that if their marriage goes wrong, it’s because they aren’t doing Christianity well enough. But even the casual observer can see that that has nothing to do with it. That people without any god at all can manage to do relationships well. God, anyone’s version of it, is not what holds relationships together. Those that say they are only together because of God make me pause and wonder what will happen when their idea of god changes, or if one spouse’s journey leads away from Christianity.

If belief in Jesus causes you to treat one another better and therefore have a more fulfilling relationship, then that’s great! I’m not knocking that at all. But there’s some concerns with that line of thought. To say that belief in your god is *the only thing* that can hold together a marriage is not only false, it’s dismissing of every good marriage outside your paradigm. And it’s concerning to watch people go through highs and lows and to constantly blame the way they treat their spouse on whether they are doing religion correctly or not. Human beings have managed to be respectful, loving, and empathetic, be they Christian or not, and if one cannot be compelled to treat another person in those ways without allegiance to one’s god, then I have to ask why, because non-Christians manage it every single day.

I see my husband as deserving of my respect and empathy, not because a deity declared him so, but because he’s a human being and valued. He values me purely because he loves me and I am worth it as another human being, not because he has to “see Jesus in me” in order to see my worth or because he can’t love me without first loving God.

So while I do think that faith can enhance one’s life and relationship, I can also see where it has been used as a crutch and a get-out-of-jail free card that people use to blame their problems on.

But when you’ve been used to blaming your actions on God, lack of Him, flesh nature, Satan, Eve, and everything else *but* your own self, it’s tough to start admitting personal responsibility.

No, my flesh nature is not responsible for me yelling at my husband. *I* did that, I chose that action, *I* am responsible to make it right. No, my lack of empathy toward my wife is not because I didn’t pray enough this week, but because *I* chose to act in that way and *I* alone am responsible to fix it. God isn’t going to fix it for me. That’s on me. And it’s on you.

Thankfully, I know now by both reason and experience that I can do good without anyone’s version of god. I can have a great marriage with myself and my spouse at the center of it and without a god in the equation. That many people, the world over, throughout history, have managed to do much good and have fulfilling relationships with others with and without God (anyone’s version of him/her). The traits that make us human, that cause us to have healthy relationships with other humans, are not exclusive to Christianity.

We all have access to them, we all have the opportunity for amazing relationships, god or no god.

Part Three >

Thoughts on Christian Marriage Teachings, Part One

Image courtesy of Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on March 17, 2015.

“God needs to be the center of your marriage or it will fall apart.

“Marriage takes three to work well.”

“A good husband is one who helps his wife fall more in love with God than with him.”

“The most important thing in marriage is for both to have faith in God.”

“Without God, marriage cannot work well. We are two selfish to accomplish a good marriage on our own without his sanctification and redemption.”

“A husband must be completely surrendered to God in order for his wife to completely surrender to him.”

“The closer you move toward God, the closer you move toward each other.”

“God ordained marriage and God sustains marriage.”

If you look up “Christian marriage quotes”, you’ll find thousands of pages and tens of thousands of quotes like the ones above. Some of us don’t have to Google, these things were drilled into us from babyhood. We heard them from our parents, the pulpit, pre-marital pastoral counseling, Christian marriage books, our own wedding ceremonies, and marriage seminars and conferences.

This type of thinking is a type of religious-centrism, or the idea that your perspective based on your religion is a universal truth. In reality the world around you is a much bigger place with broader views that don’t follow your rules or operate within your paradigm.

I’d like to talk a little more thoughtfully about the idea that “having a relationship with God and God as the center” is not necessary for having a wonderful marriage and how dependence on this concept can be damaging.

But first, a story. My story, and what led to the broadening of my own views on healthy marriage.

These teachings about having God at the center of your marriage, almost tanked my own marriage. Along with the erroneous teachings of Complementarianism, the idea that God had to be the center of my marriage, and all that entails, was disastrous for my marriage.

I came into marriage with a lot of funny ideas on what a Godly marriage was supposed to look like. I’d been raised a good little female homeschooler and read all the right books, including Created to Be His Helpmeet. I knew that in order to have a godly marriage that lasts a lifetime, I had to learn submission to my husband, he had to be in tune with God in order to lead correctly, we had to both be in daily communication with God, prayer together daily, discuss our faith, be part of Bible studies that would encourage us in our personal faith and our godly marriage, and be sure to “keep God at the center” of our marriage. We could only love each other well if we loved God more. Every church we were part of reinforced these teachings. Every couple we talked to in the church declared them to be true.

But nothing worked out like it was supposed to. As my husband said to me just last night, “Doing marriage the Christian way almost killed our marriage”. The more I tried to respectfully get him to lead prayer with me, or to go to men’s retreats where he’d learn to be a more godly leader, the more he resisted and the more distant he got. He’d cave and go to a retreat where, in his words, “they’d spend the whole time telling us how we weren’t good enough men and needed to repent and get closer to God and we’d come home feeling both dejected and on a repentance high.” (He likes to refer to the emotional upswing that happens after a spiritual encounter as a “spiritual high”.) We had quite a few of those experiences in the first 5 years of trying to be a godly couple. There seemed to always be something to repent of, something we weren’t doing quite right, something we needed to do better in order to obtain what we were supposedly missing: connection with God and therefore each other and therefore God’s blessing on our marriage.

Somewhere along the line, we both gave up. We loved each other, had great chemistry, were committed for life. But we were tired. So tired of trying to fit into boxes we didn’t fit in. Trying to pursue the elusive spiritual connection that would finally help us obtain “godly marriage”. We never fought, we just disconnected. I was sure it was over because we never prayed together and he was sullen because I lived in fear that we’d messed up, that God wasn’t the center of our marriage, that we could never have what all those smiling couples on the marriage books had. And we were both miserable.

Giving up saved our marriage. 

When we were both able to give up on expectations of each other and ourselves, expectations we were told came straight from God, we were finally able to see the people we were and the relationship we had. We were able to appreciate the uniqueness that was us instead of forcing something that wasn’t us and was killing our hearts and souls and relationship. We gave up the idea that either of us had to be close to God to be close to each other and started connecting based on who we were as people, not as Christians. We stopped sharing our personal faith journeys with each other in a forced “we have to share because it’s what we’re supposed to do” way, which was really me trying to pry his thoughts out of his head in order to feel some sort of spiritual connection to him. We stopped trying to model the male headship structure and decided that Egalitarianism was more true to who we were and made more sense for a healthy relationship between adults. I started to blossom as my own person, an independent individual, something I had never done before as a conservative homeschooled female. I no longer needed him to shape up spiritually in order to lead me. I didn’t need a leader, I needed a partner, a companion. He didn’t need me to be another child that needed leading, he needed and wanted a partner in life.

We stopped asking “what are we supposed to do? What are we supposed to get out of this relationship? How can we glorify God with our marriage?” and started asking “what do we want to do? What do we want from this relationship? How can we live a fulfilled, healthy life within our marriage?” We threw out the books, stopped going to conferences, and completely gave up any spiritual and religious aspect of our marriage. We didn’t talk about God with each other for *years* and just let the other person have their own faith and do whatever they liked with it. We stripped it all down to two people, madly in love, who like each other and want to do life together, and now what? 

That was the first 5 years of our marriage. The last 5 years have been truly phenomenal. Real connection, mutual respect, freeing each other to be individuals, talking til 2 AM about everything and nothing, sexual fulfillment, laughter, partners in crime, best friends, each on our own spiritual journey and not threatened by the others’, doing life together in an easy, non-forced way. According to every sermon, every book, every conference, every meme and internet quote passed around Facebook, our marriage should be falling apart without God. But without God and the expectations that came with the idea of him, our marriage is thriving, as are many others in the same place as we are. I am sometimes angered by the fact that something that started out so good was almost destroyed because we submitted to teachings of men in the name of their god. I’ll talk a little more about those teachings and the problems inherent in them in Part 2.

Part Two >

The Courtship That Wasn’t: Darcy’s Story

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 5

Nothing about my courtship or marriage was supposed to happen.

I wasn’t supposed to give my heart away, not even a piece. Especially not to an unapproved guy whose family did not share our standards. They were good enough to be our friends, but definitely not intended for future marriage prospects. And I was only 17 anyway. 17-yr-olds were supposed to be concerned with serving the Lord and their families and weren’t anywhere near mature enough to know their own minds. “The heart is deceitful”, after all, especially when you’re 17.

But there I was, fallen from grace, in love with a boy. It was completely unintentional. I never meant for it to happen. But he was my friend and suddenly he was more. This is why we weren’t supposed to be friends with boys. Falling in love was something that ungodly dating people did. We practiced courtship and emotional purity and that meant no falling in love, no giving away pieces of your heart, no emotional fornication, only parent-approved courtship to one person who would end up my husband through a means of careful formulas to be sure no mistakes were made.

But I failed. I was in love. I was no better than The World after all.

The agony of coming to grips with my failure, of pleading with God to take away this forbidden feeling, to make my heart whole again, the guilt that I had somehow let this happen and had failed myself and my parents and my entire sub-culture was more than any teenage girl could bear. I begged God for forgiveness, I tried avoiding The Boy, I tried reading my Bible more and spent hours praying and throwing myself into my schoolwork and church activities. But it was apparent that, regardless of what I had been taught and what had been drilled into me by the courtship books, love is not something you can control.

And my whole carefully constructed world came crashing down around me.

I had to come to grips with the fact that everything I had believed was a lie. That many of the teachings on purity and “guarding your heart” and courtship and relationships were not at all reality, but some grand scheme made up to try to control other people’s lives. I couldn’t even find these ideas in my well-worn Bible, nor logically work them out in my head. Yet I knew that if my parents had any inkling of what was swirling around my head, there would be hell to pay and my life would be even more miserable than it already was. I was not free to have my own beliefs on this matter, even as an adult.

I kept it from them, my budding secret relationship with The Boy, my feelings and our talks (because if feeling emotional attachment for someone was forbidden, talking about it to them was even worse). I kept it from them until the day they told me they had to, for my own good, keep me away from him because he liked me and that couldn’t be allowed. Here’s my written account of what went down that day, taken from my journal of that time:

“We need to talk,” they said. “We’ve decided that you and Sky are spending too much time together. It’s not good for either of you. He’s obviously attracted to you and we feel we need to guard your heart so you don’t end up giving it away to the wrong person at the wrong time. I know you’re good friends and we’d like to keep it that way so we feel like you shouldn’t spend so much time together.”

Dad was about to go on when I blurted out “It’s too late!”

They just looked at me while I gathered all the courage I had and declared, “I’m in love with him.”

They looked at each other and my mom sighed dramatically. “This is exactly what we were trying to avoid. It’s OK,” my mom patted my lap. “We’re in this together and we’ll help you get through this.”

“I don’t want to get through this” I said quietly. They looked at me in silent shock.

Then I told them all…But I knew they didn’t understand. “Don’t you think,” my dad said, “that if this were God’s will for you, that He would tell me?”

“Maybe, maybe not”, I replied. “Maybe He wants you to hear it from me. Maybe part of growing up is learning to listen to God on my own.”

“You know,” Mom tried, “sometimes we can want something so badly that we think God is telling us something that He’s not. This could all be coming from your own heart. Our hearts are deceitful, after all.”

“Mom,” I said, “do you believe that I have a strong relationship with the Lord?”

“Well, yes,” she replied.

“So why is it so hard to believe that He would speak to me and show me the direction He wants me to go in my life?” I asked earnestly.

The answer was pretty much what I thought it would be: because the direction God was supposedly showing me was not the direction they had planned. I came away from that talk with the impression that they thought this was just a phase that would run its course. Once again they proved how little they knew me and how little they really wanted to.

It all went downhill from there. I documented the entire story on my blog, in 12 parts. It’s painful to read, difficult even now to relive the agony of the girl I was, the girl who had to fight, to be strong, the girl whose heart was ripped out again and again by the very people who claimed to protect it, all in the name of God. The girl who wanted nothing more than to please God, who had to use spiritual-sounding language and justifications to do what should’ve been a normal part of growing up. But that’s what happens when you’re raised to be, not yourself, not an autonomous person, but an asset to be controlled.

I read my journals and even the story I wrote out 6 years ago, and I am angered. I should not have had to use God to justify my choices. I should not have had to invoke His will for my life, to try to convince my parents that I knew my own mind and could “hear God for myself”. I should not have had to field emotional abuse and manipulation and spiritual control of my mind and heart and body. I should not have had to flee home just to get away from them and find peace. I was an adult, that should have been enough to make my own choices.

But in our world, it was not. In the world for which courtship was invented, the ultimate sin was rebellion against God’s order of authority, against what your parents wanted for you, and choosing to walk on your own amid cries of “rebellion”. In this world, men could not be trusted and women were assets to be controlled, and the two could only meet under many layers of rules meant to keep us dependent on our authorities, despising of our own desires, and mistrusting of our own hearts and minds. It has always amazed me how two people who were declared not mature enough to conduct a relationship without supervision and under extreme outside constraint could somehow be mature enough to begin a marriage.

It took me until about 4 years ago to finally stop making spiritual-sounding excuses for why we conducted a secret relationship, why we rejected courtship, why we did everything “wrong” and against my parents’ will, to stop trying to get anyone listening to acknowledge the legitimacy of our choices by invoking God’s will.

To finally simply declare, “Because it was what we wanted and we had that right”.

Such a basic idea yet so foreign to those of us who are refugees from the homeschooling movement. We have that right….the right to love, to choose, to live. To not have our adult choices dictated by another, our autonomy robbed in the name of “because God says so”, coerced by ideologies that left us no real choice because “do this or suffer hell” is not a real choice.

It was what we wanted. And that should have been enough.

Mary Pride: Don’t Divorce Your Drunk, Raging Husband

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 2.26.19 PM

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

The following passage is from the 2010 “25th Anniversary Edition” of Mary Pride’s seminal book The Way Home: Beyond Feminism Back to Reality, originally published in 1985. The emphases are in original:

The reason the church is getting lax about divorce is that we no longer understand marriage. If a spouse has problems, such as drunkenness or fits of temper, the other one concludes it is not a “good” marriage and moves on. Those who take this perspective end up allowing divorce “for any and every reason,” just as the Pharisees were doing in Jesus’ day. Jesus answered the Pharisees that destruction of any God-ordained marriage is always wrong… Only adultery, which breaks the partnership by pouring its resources into a spiritually fruitless extramarital union, as well as (in the case of an adulterous wife) jeopardizing the children’s legitimacy, and desertion, which nullifies the partnership, are biblical grounds for divorce… Christians may never, never, never divorce Christians. (21-22)

Image from page 21’s excerpt of the book:


You can read more about Mary Pride and her book The Child Abuse Industry here.

On Crushes

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 10.24.29 PM

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on September 14, 2014.

Growing up on the conservative Christian homeschooling culture of courtship and purity rings made a lot of things about boy-girl interactions different. Everything was ramped up, accelerated somehow. Our mothers jumped straight from simple attractions on our part to the possibility of marriage. We did too.

I still remember my first crush. I was seven. He was nine. I was homeschooled, but he wasn’t. My mother and his mother knew each other from church. Finally, I got up the courage to ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up, to see if our life visions were compatible. He said he wanted to be a basketball player. I knew that almost certainly wouldn’t happen, and that even if it did, the longterm prospects were slim. This declaration on his part made him seem unwise, and thus definitely an unsuitable partner. How would I be able to submit to his headship when his life ambition was basketball player? I still thought he was cute and all, but my crush was for all intents and purposes over, because I knew there was nothing there for us.

We were told we shouldn’t date until we were ready for marriage. Well, they told us we shouldn’t date at all, that we should court, but that those relationships should not begin before each party was ready to marry. In other words, guy-girl relationships were intrinsically tied to marriage. Guy-girl relationships that weren’t marriage-oriented were wrong and would have all sorts of consequences.

In this context, it’s not surprising that we children would immediately jump to thoughts of marriage upon even the slightest crush.

Were there prospects? Could we possibly end up married, someday? If no, attraction must be crushed. If yes? Well, one can dream, right? I mean, I might be 14 and he might be 16, and we may not be ready for marriage and I might be too afraid of the opposite sex to talk to him anyway, but the most important pressing question is whether maybe, someday, we might be compatible and in a position to marry, right?

There was one young man whom I had always found gangly and awkward and unattractive, but when I headed off to college I learned that he was headed off to university to study engineering. Hmm, I thought. That’s good prospects. Maybe I should reconsider how I felt about him? If I played my cards right, perhaps there might be something there. After all, we had the same beliefs and background. Like me, he was from a large homeschooling family, even more conservative than mine if anything.

Reading that now, I’m struck by how mercenary it was. But that was my reality.

I don’t think it’s helpful to ramp the pressure up to 100 and insert the marriage question into the slightest childhood crush. Most people will have multiple relationships before they meet the person they marry, and that’s actually a good thing, because it’s how we learn and grow. I was taught growing up that we give away “pieces of our heart” every time we have a relationship. The ideal, I was taught, was for my very first relationship to lead to marriage. But the truth is that we learn and grow through our relationships. My husband wouldn’t be the person he is today if he hadn’t dated the two women he dated before me—and I like the person he is today. Far from depriving me of pieces of his heart, those two relationships improved him.

But perhaps what I find most unhealthy about this whole pieces-of-your-heart/your-first-relationship-should-lead-to-marriage ideal is what it means for young men and women who begin a relationship and find it turning south, only to feel that leaving the relationship is not an option. I know women today who found themselves in abusive relationships—yes, good evangelical homeschooled girls who followed the rules and courted good evangelical homeschooled boys—only to feel trapped. Leaving was out of the question—leaving meant not simply relationship failure but comprehensive life failure, and things lost that could never be retrieved.

I know what I’m going to tell my children: It’s okay. It doesn’t have to mean more than you want it to mean. Enjoy the moment. Focus on building healthy and fulfilling relationships rather than trying to force things toward marriage.

Oh, and also? Sometimes a crush is just a crush. And that’s okay.

Israel Wayne on the (Patriarchal) Father’s Role

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 11.26.02 AM

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on August 4, 2014.

Israel Wayne is supposed to be a voice of reason in the Christian homeschooling community. A homeschool graduate himself, and now a homeschool father, he travels the convention circuit and has written blog posts criticizing various patriarchal homeschool leaders. It’s a pity he’s unaware that he is himself one of those patriarchal homeschool leaders.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve heard the smash pop hit, “Rude” by the group Magic!. It speaks about a young man, seeking permission to marry a traditional man’s daughter.

He is turned down by the young lady’s father, but rather than being rebuffed, he retorts with the line, “I’m gonna marry her anyway!”

This is obviously a disturbing thought for any man who has spent a couple of decades nurturing what he considers to be one of his most valuable relationships on the planet. How might a father respond to such a scenario?

Hi Israel! Guess what? I was one of those daughters!

My now-husband Sean asked my father permission to marry me, and was denied that permission. We got married anyway, and we’ve never—ever—regretted that. Believe it or not, I was actually in the best position to decided who I should marry, because I know my strengths, weaknesses, interests, and desires better than anyone else—including my father. I also knew Sean a whole lot better than my father did, or cared to, which meant I was also a better judge of his character, and I knew what I was getting into.

Had my father spent a couple of decades nurturing his relationship with me? Sure! But I had also spent a couple of decades growing, maturing, and transitioning to life as an independent individual. I was—and am—more than my father’s relationship with me. And it’s a good thing too, because my father let my decision to marry against his wishes ruin our relationship, when he didn’t have to. He’s the one who chose to let our relationship die. If he had wanted to keep that “valuable” relationship he could have, but chose not to.

This really isn’t all that complicated. It is completely reasonable for a young couple to choose to marry without parental permission. If that decision destroys a father’s relationship with his daughter, that is generally his doing, not hers.

As I read Wayne’s post, I became curious about the music video he was referring to. So I looked it up. Allow me to share it with you!

I don’t know about you, but I really appreciated this music video. The woman was clearly an adult, as I was when my father denied his permission. Furthermore, while the young man tried three times to get the young woman’s father’s permission, the father made absolutely no attempt to get to know him. It’s very clear that the father was judging based on outward appearances and prejudices rather than any actual specific concerns for his daughter’s happiness or safety.

Indeed, his daughter appeared just as sure and happy in her choice as is her fiancé.

But of course, Wayne has more to say:

I think the popularity of Magic’s hit, “Rude” emphasizes the shift that has occurred culturally in America over the past 60 years, where fathers are no longer considered to be important entities in family life. They are regularly portrayed on television and movies as weak, bumbling idiots, who are constantly rescued from their folly by their wives and children.

I don’t actually think this is the case. I mean yes, it is true that fathers are too often portrayed as “bumbling idiots” when it comes to things like childcare. This is a problem, and is a feminist issue—men are just as capable of being nurturing and devoted to their children as are women, and it is a disservice to so many fathers to suggest otherwise. And you know what else? Diaper changing isn’t done with ladybits. But I’m not so sure that this is what we see reflected in this music video. This father isn’t portrayed as a “bumbling idiot” but rather as a judgmental control freak who doesn’t want to let his adult daughter make her own life decisions. And the reason this portrayal hits home is that it happens. I’ve been there. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

There has always been a tension that has existed between fathers and prospective young men hoping to whisk away their daughters. I believe it was G.K. Chesterton who said that fathers in every generation feel that they taking a priceless vase and handing it to an ape when they give their daughters in marriage. There certainly are scenarios of over-bearing fathers who act in a domineering and abuse manner, but sometimes proper protection can be seen as over-protection.

You know something? I am not happy with being compared to a “priceless vase” to be put on a trophy shelf or handed over to a new owner. Can Wayne not see that this completely robs women of their autonomy?

How exactly can Wayne call out patriarchy in the homeschooling movement and then so clearly endorse it?

He apparently thinks that fathers should exercise some sort of veto power over their adult daughters’ marriage decisions—but this is the very problem we anti-patriarchy bloggers have been talking about!

And another thing—Wayne apparently thinks it’s easy to tell between “over-bearing fathers who act in a domineering and abusive manner” and “proper protection.” What is the distinction, exactly? Where is the line? My father certainly never saw himself as “over-bearing,” “domineering,” or “abusive.” From his perspective, he was simply trying to protect his daughter. Wayne throws in this bit about over-bearing and domineering fathers to try to assert that he is against “that kind of thing”—even as he advocates for it.

I’m not saying that fathers shouldn’t express any concerns they may have about their daughters’ prospective marriage partners. They absolutely should, especially if there are abusive relationship patterns or warning signs. But that doesn’t tend to be what Wayne or others like him are talking about. My own father refused to give his permission in large part because Sean was not “100% pro-life,” for example (yes, my father had a checklist). What Wayne and men like my father are concerned about is not healthy relationship patterns or abuse but rather ideological purity.

Even in cases where there are actual concerns about abuse, all a father (or mother) can do is express their concerns and then be there for their child. Adult women do not in fact need their parents’ permission to marry. Shutting the door in your daughter’s fiancé’s face is more likely to drive your daughter away than it is to make her leave her fiancé.

Wayne also includes (and appears to endorse) this homemade video. In it, the father threatens prospective suiters with assault and proclaims that he’s not afraid to go to jail for it. I had to stop before finishing it.

Look, daughters aren’t property to be bought and sold.

If you’re worried about your daughter’s safety, whatever happened with equipping them to protect themselves rather than trying to “protect” them by controlling their life choices? Because I’ll tell you this right now: controlling their life choices is not going to end well.

Actually, let me amend that—that’s not going to end well for you. Your daughter will probably make it through, with some therapy, and have a wonderful life with her chosen partner. You’re the one who will be left alone in the cold, written out of your daughter’s life—just like the father in the music video.

P.S. A number of people have that the young man in the music video comes across as too possessive, and as having little interest in what the young woman in question wants. I understand those critiques. However, it’s worth noting that the father appears to reject the young man based not on these concerns but on prejudice, and that in reacting as he does the father himself is too possessive of his daughter and shows little interest in what she wants. The result is that, regardless of the quality of her suitor, he drives his daughter away. I also do appreciate that in the music video the young woman appears to have her own agency and be just as into the relationship as the young man, for what it’s worth.

Critics may find the following interpretations interesting. Both are sung by women; the first is a lesbian interpretation and the second is sung from the perspective of the young woman rather than the suitor.

Doug Phillips on the “Yin and Yang” of Marriage


By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

I was reading “The Big Box Series” over at Scarlet Letters, a blog exploring the Christian homeschooling subculture, the Christian patriarchy movement, and women’s and gender issues within Christianity. I came across a post featuring one of Doug Phillips’s lectures, entitled “How to Evaluate a Suitor,” on marriage and being “unequally yoked.” Scarlet Letters makes interesting connections between Phillips, Rushdoony, and implicit racism; the post is worth a look. But what I was most intrigued by — since my M.A. focused on Eastern philosophy and religion — was his truncated and highly inaccurate understanding of Eastern philosophies and religions. Take a look:

There is no relationship in the entire earth in which agreement is more necessary than marriage. It is the most heightened level of agreement that is necessary in marriage, because two people become one. It’s the only relationship that we have in which two become one, physically and spiritually you become one. And so if one is at complete differences with the other, you’ve got a formula for disaster. That’s the Buddhist philosophy of yin and yang. Good and evil coexisting together, both in a constant state of war to create a one. That’s Buddhism, that’s Daoism, that Confucianism. It’s not Christianity. We don’t believe in yin and yang. We believe the two should be one, they need to be in agreement.

I mean, my main reaction is just: LOL.

My more detailed reaction would be:

1) “Good and evil coexisting together in a constant state of war to create one” is not the Buddhist philosophy of yin and yang.

2) “Good and evil coexisting together in a constant state of war” is more of a Hindu concept, which for some reason didn’t even make it onto Phillips’s list of religions.

3) Relating “good and evil” to yin and yang is a American/Westernized thing; it’s not a faithful interpretation of yin and yang in their cultural and historical contexts.

4) Buddhism is not the same as Daoism.

5) Daoism is not the same as Confucianism.

6) Confucianism is not the same as Buddhism.

7) When “yin and yang” is properly understood, Christianity actually does express similar sentiments.

I will not bore my readers with a detailed explanation of Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. But I would like to at least explain “yin” and “yang” briefly, because — hey, I rarely have the opportunity to apply my M.A. directly in my work with HA. I might as well take advantage of this rare opportunity.

So here we go:

Both yin and yang are traditional Chinese characters. Here’s yin: 陰. Here’s yang: 陽. If you notice, on the lefthand side of each character is the same “mini-character”: 阝. 阝signifies a mound or hill.  When combined with 侌, which signifies “cloudy,” you get what we think of as “yin,” which signifies the cloudy or shadowy side of a hill. On the other hand, when 阝is combined with 昜 (which signifies “bright”), you get “yang,” which signifies the sunny or bright side of a hill. Thinking of a hill is probably the easiest Intro to Yin and Yang I could give you: it’s the same hill, but it has two sides: a cloudy side and a sunny side. The sides aren’t “in a constant state of war”; rather, they’re two sides of the same coin and — despite unique characteristics and personalities — work together in harmony.

Which, if you think about it, is an interesting metaphor for marriage.

I am absolutely fascinated by the foundational Daoist text, the Dao De Jing. So here’s the main passage (Chapter 42) in that text that discusses the traditional Daoist understanding of yin and yang:

Tao gave birth to the One; the One gave birth successively to two things, three things, up to ten thousand. These ten thousand creatures cannot turn their backs to the shade [yin] without having the sun [yang] on their bellies, and it is on this blending of the breaths that their harmony depends.

To be orphaned, needy, ill-provided is what men most hate; yet princes and dukes style themselves so.

Truly, “things are often increased by seeking to diminish them and diminished by seeking to increase them.” The maxims that others use in their teaching I too will use in mine.

Show me a man of violence that came to a good end, and I will take him for my teacher.

Most every chapter in the Dao De Jing begins with some universal principle and then applies it to how a ruler ought to govern. In my opinion, the Dao De Jing is primarily a political treatise about the nature and application of power; it’s not a religious statement. To put it in “Christianese” terminology, it’s about “living in the tension.” In this case, it’s political tension: a wise ruler knowns how to non-violently embrace and marshal opposing political elements to his own advantage. (Which, again, is an interesting metaphor for marriage, albeit Machiavellian.)

But that’s just Daoism — and that’s just one interpretation of one Daoist text written by one Daoist. How Daoism (as well as Buddhism and Confucianism) thinks about and applies the idea of yin and yang is as diverse as how American Christians think about and apply the idea that humans are made in God’s image. It’s completely sloppy (and unfair) to just group all those religions and their denominations together and make sweeping generalizations. For example, some American Christians think the “humans in God’s image” concept necessitates we accept and love LGBT* individuals; other American Christians think the same concept justifies bigotry and discrimination. If American Christians wouldn’t like being made into unfair caricatures, they ought not make unfair caricatures of other religions and people groups.

Making unfair caricatures of other religions and people groups is a serious problem in the Christian homeschooling subculture and American Evangelicalism in general. (It’s also a problem that plagues other cultures. No uniqueness here.) I have talked about this previously in my “How I Learned to Stop Being Afraid and Love Other Religions” series. When I realized that curriculums and ideas created and advocated by everyone from David Noebel to Ken Ham to Worldview Weekend to James Dobson was passing on nothing but soundbites and straw men of other people’s beliefs, I felt upset. And confused. If homeschool leaders actually want to raise up a generation that is taken seriously in the public square, they owe that generation the truth. They owe it an accurate and generous understanding of opposing viewpoints: whether those viewpoints be Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian, or even atheist.

When homeschool leaders (or former ones like Doug Phillips), throw everything from Buddhism to Confucianism to Daoism into one box and cannot even understand a basic concept like yin and yang, how is that any different from Richard Dawkins throwing those same religions — but also Christianity — into the same box and declaring, “A plague on all your houses”? Remember Jesus’s Golden Rule: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”

Which, incidentally, Confucius said 500 years prior: “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

Gothard’s Sex Rules: Marital Consent? What’s That?

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.37.57 PM

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on May 13, 2014.

My family never attended one of Bill Gothard’s seminars, and we didn’t use Gothard’s curriculum. We children were, instead, raised on the outskirts of Gothardism. We knew people who were followers of Bill Gothard, and we imbibed a few of his teachings (umbrella of authority, anyone?), but that was the extent of it. As things began to snowball over the past months and Gothard was exposed as a sexual predator and ultimately relieved of his leadership position, I wanted to learn more about what Gothard actually taught, in his own words. So I purchased Gothard’s “Advanced Seminar Textbook,” which was published in 1986 and can be found used on Amazon. I’m not going to blog through it page by page, but I do plan to write some posts on various sections. Today I offer my first of these posts.

In his textbook, Gothard covers his rules for periodic abstinence during marriage, which centers on a woman’s menstrual cycle (pages 175—185). Of all of Gothard’s teachings, this may be the one I’m most unfamiliar with, as it is foreign to anything taught in the evangelical church my family attended. In this post, I will cover the first pages of this section and then finish with a letter Gothard received from a follower.

To start out, here are the rules Gothard lays out as “God’s laws on abstinence”:

What Are God’s Guidelines for Times of Abstinence? 

  1. During the menstrual cycle—Ezekiel 18:5-6
  2. Seven days after the menstrual cycle—Leviticus 15:28
  3. 40 days after the birth of a son—Leviticus 12:2-4
  4. 80 days after the birth of a daughter—Leviticus 12:5

Gothard’s critics tend to do two things: they call him a “legalist” and argue that his teachings in this area come from the Old Testament and are therefore invalid, as the Old Testament is superseded by the New Testament. Here, on the first page of this section, Gothard directly counters both of these arguments.

First, Gothard urges his readers to “distinguish between legalism and godly living” and states that: “(1) Legalism is trying to earn salvation; (2) Legalism is trying to live the Christian life with the energy of the soul; and (3) Legalism is following ‘the letter,’ not ‘the spirit.’” Gothard uses Bible verses to back all of this up, focusing especially on II Corinthians 3:6. Gothard argues that he is not teaching legalism but rather godly living.

Second, Gothard pulls up each time the New Testament references “uncleanness” and uses that to claim that the Old Testament teachings regarding a woman’s menstrual uncleanness is still valid. This is a fascinating attempt, but it does not actually work, as it’s pretty clear he’s proof texting and he comes across as being unaware that the New Testament was written in a different language from the Old Testament. Still, that he at least tried is fascinating.

Now I want to turn to the first of the “Benefits of Abstinence” Gothard lays out.

1. It builds self-control.

When sex drives are misused, they become self-consuming and can never be satisfied. Burned-out lusts call for new forms of perversion, which become even greater tyrants of unfulfillment.

Okay, so here’s the thing. If I’m overeating and I know I’m overeating, and it’s making me feel unhealthy, I can fix that by moderating what I eat. I don’t need to spend time fasting to do that. In fact, fasting in order to lose weight can easily lead to binge eating when the fast is over. I guess what I’m saying is that there are better ways to foster a healthy and balanced sex life than abstaining and then (presumably) binging.

But what’s actually going on here becomes more clear with the letter Gothard prints from one of his followers, and it’s not pretty.

How a Commitment to Abstinence Transformed a Marriage

I am writing to report what has happened in our marriage since our decision to follow God’s guidelines for abstinence. To be honest, I was waiting to see if the changes in our lives were short-lived or permanent. Now after a third of a year and five menstrual cycles, I am encouraged that our decision was correct, Biblically-based, and that the Lord is blessing our marriage more than ever before.

Let me start at the beginning. Our dating relationship was based on the physical, not on the spiritual. It ended in pregnancy and then marriage. She was sixteen, I was twenty.

Depending on the state, this might not have been legal.

After we married, our sex life became a shambles. My physical drives were impossible for her to satisfy, and even with a daily physical relationship, I became involved in pornography and other impure habits.

If you’re having sex daily and yet you’re not sexually satisfying, it’s probably worth seeing a doctor or a therapist.

After ten years of marriage we attended our first Basic Youth Seminar. When you went over the consequences of defrauding in dating, I suddenly realized my problem and our marriage problem.

And exactly how do we explain all of the couples who had sex before marriage and are currently in healthy, sexually fulfilling relationships?

I asked God to forgive me for defrauding her before marriage, and for the first time in my life, I began exercising self-control.

Also for the first time in ten years of married life, we began to experience true sexual intimacy. Our relationship continued to improve, but my wife still felt forced to submit to me, and she worried daily about whether or not she would have to ‘make love’ that night.

Wait. Wait wait wait. So the whole time this guy was having sex daily, his wife was only participating because she believed her role, as his wife, was to submit to him and be sexually available. You know, the fact that she felt she had to have sex with him whether she wanted to or not might just play some part in why their sexual relationship wasn’t fully satisfying him.

I began having difficulty exercising self-control.

I really want to know what this means. Was he raping her?

Then we attended your Corporate Leaders Seminar and learned about abstinence during the menstrual period and for seven days after the period. I knew immediately that this is what God wanted me to commit to, and it scared me to death! I couldn’t picture myself being committed to anything like that!

However, God gave me the strength and encouragement to talk to my wife. We discussed it and that day, with her permission, I made a commitment to follow that principle.

Now he’s concerned about getting his wife’s permission?

The relief within my wife was almost visible. The “fear” is gone from our marriage.

Well of course her relief was almost visible! His poor wife knew she would have have two weeks of blessed relief from her husband’s constant (and unreciprocated) sexual demands!

We now have a freedom we never experienced before. We are blessed to the point that we almost feel guilty when we are around our Christian friends who are completely loaded down with problems. Our lives have been transformed by applying this and other principles from God’s Word.

You replaced consent with biblically-mandated periodic abstinence, you asshole.

A Confirming Report from the Wife

I cannot tell you how much the material on abstinence has meant to me and our marriage. I have never experienced what has been happening in our marriage since we began following the principle of abstinence.

It is indeed a miracle!!!! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, my husband has exercised real self-control in the area of our sex life. I feel so loved, cherished, and protected! I have been able to respond to him as seldom before. The difference in our relationship is difficult to describe, but very wonderful to experience. Thank you again for motivating us to choose God’s best.

Someone tell this poor wife about consent and marital rape.

I didn’t expect to be this frustrated when I opened the volume to these pages, but I am. I am really, really frustrated. It appears that Gothard is using abstinence during the period and for seven days after the period as a replacement for consent within marriage. With these teachings, women who find themselves forced to submit to sex they do not want—forced by their believe that that is the wife’s biblical role—can find relief in two solid weeks of freedom from those demands.

This is sick.

“I’d Leave My Wife Sitting There”: Michael Pearl’s “Pearls of Wisdom”

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 10.53.36 AM

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on July 12, 2014.

So I recently came upon this video:

I transcribed it for you so you don’t have to watch it.

Debi: Hi, I’m Debi Pearl

Mike: And I’m the big boss Mike.

Debi: We’re here to day to read a question that came in in our mail and to answer it.

Oh goody, a letter! Are you ready?

Hi Mike,

I love my wife, but I find it hard to like her sometimes. Over the years she has gotten more and more competitive or at least I think of it as competitive. But this is an example of what she does. We’ll be in a restaurant and she sort of punishes the waitresses by not tipping them, if they do anything wrong at all. This embarrasses me. If the food is not exactly the way she wants it, she calls the manager out and complains and wants the meal free. She’s a good wife to me, but she is over assertive in many other areas. What should I do?

Talk to your wife. No really, talk to your wife about this.

Seriously, there is nothing in that letter to indicate that the guy has even tried telling his wife how her actions are making him feel. If I were in this situation—and who isn’t in a similar situation at some point?—I would let my wife know that the way she was acting in restaurants was embarrassing me. And then we could talk, and she could explain how she feels, and I could explain how I feel, and we could talk it out.

For instance, Sean used to do this self-deprecating thing about the state of our home. You know, this whole “it’s a bit of a mess, it usually is, sorry about that,” and such. Now first of all, he made our house out to be worse than it usually was. But more than that, because of the cultural idea that women are more responsible for the house cleaning, I knew that his deprecation in this area came back more on me than on him. It made me really uncomfortable and, yes, embarrassed. So guess what I did? I told him how I felt! And guess what? He stopped doing it! He hadn’t even realized how uncomfortable he was making me.

Now obviously, the situation in the letter isn’t completely identical. But still, if one spouse’s behavior is embarrassing the other, the two should talk it over. I mean, that’s kind of the first step. Now if this man’s wife continues to act this way in restaurants, he could tip the waitress on the sly, or he could stop eating out and just say he doesn’t want to go. And if one party doesn’t care about the other’s needs, or if they are fundamentally incompatible, it might be best to part ways. Or goodness, go to couple’s counseling if talking it out doesn’t work!

So now let’s turn to Michael’s advice.

Mike: I tell you what I’d do, I’d get up and walk out of the restaurant and leave my wife sitting there if she was asking in an embarrassing way, or when she treated the waiter or the manager unkindly I’d tip them twenty dollars and apologize in front of her for her actions. Sometimes people, you know, the way we all learn to be socially responsible is by being in social context and bouncing our actions off of other people. if we act in ways that are inappropriate and other people respond to it negatively, then we learn what the boundaries are socially. So I would become boundaries.

In other words I wouldn’t just sit there silently, I would speak my mind about it and try to curb that kind of action. It’s selfish, it’s not considerate of other people, it’s not loving, it’s not kind, it’s not generous, it’s not merciful, it’s not forgiving, it’s not the kind of things we as Christians are toward other people. It’s haughty, it’s arrogant, it’s elitist, it’s acting as if you are the one that matters and the establishment doesn’t, these are just human, these are just people. If you don’t like the cooking, just eat at home.

Shorter Michael Pearl: If your wife embarrasses you in a restaurant, embarrass her back.

But what I really can’t get over is that he goes on and on about how unkind and unloving the man’s wife is being by not tipping and by complaining to the manager, but he can’t see that apologizing for your wife’s actions to the manager, in front of your wife, might also be unkind and unloving.

And notice what he does not even think to suggest? Oh, I don’t know, talking it out privately. Is it really that hard for the man to go to his wife and tell her how embarrassed her actions make him feel?

Well, once Michael finished Debi weighed in as well:

Well I read all the letters the man wrote, some of the examples were on the line, I can see why the woman would think some of these things, but it wasn’t merciful. And how can a man curb his wife if he hasn’t got the kind of personality Mike has, if he’s a gentle, loving husband? You know, I don’t know how a man could do that that wouldn’t be aggressive like Mike except sit his wife down and say is this merciful, or maybe just have a bible study with his wife on mercy, and kindness, and gentleness. But a woman is supposed to be gentle first. And anyway, this is a hard thing for a man to go through.

Is it just me or did Debi just let it spill that Mike is not a gentle and loving husband? I mean I know she’s said things along these lines before, but this is so blatant!

Debi gets closer to saying that the two should talk it out than Michael does. Of course, she’s still seeing it in a dictating-type way, but that’s to be expected. I suppose, then, that in the Pearls’ world “aggressive” husbands are to publicly embarrass their wayward wives while “gentle, loving” husbands are to sit their wayward wives down and chide them.

It’s a pity the Pearls have to make things so complicated when a good, solid egalitarian marriage built on communication and compromise makes these things so simple.