In my first post in this series, I presented the possibility (probability?) of a wide-spread acceptance in the Christian church of the idea that women are more godly, holy and spiritual than men, and included quotes from others who said that they have bumped up against the idea. I posited that this assumption might be a reason for the disconnect between men and the Church, and presented findings from a Pew Research study showing that, of all the world’s religions, Christianity is the only one with a greater female membership.
My second post explored material that showed that the presumption of a female-superiority teaching is actually quite possible and that there is a very good likelihood that this teaching is at the root of much of the dysfunction that troubles today’s church.
Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves
In my posts on LYWACLTC™, I showed how what should be sound biblical teaching has been re-worked into a cudgel that is used to beat men into submission to their marriages. On a greater scale, the Church seems to be agreeing with society that masculinity is the gender equivalent of Mos Eisley, a “hive of scum and villainy.” Of course, this would go a long way toward explaining why Christianity is the only major religion that doesn’t appeal to men.
And yet, ironically, one of the most common complaints that wives make to pastors, speakers, writers and broadcasters about their husbands? “My husband isn’t being the spiritual leader in our home that he needs to be.” Please, someone, show me the logic in telling the poor sod that he’s a spiritual inferior and then turn around and demand that he be his wife’s Billy Graham? Talk about setting someone up for failure.
There is a C. S. Lewis quote from his book The Abolition of Man that describes this situation perfectly. While not addressing any inferiority doctrine, he writes about how society is creating the kind of man it doesn’t want:
We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
He’s only right. The Church effectively castrates the Christian man and castigates him for not being as spiritual as his wife, and then expects him to come up to snuff; religiously approved snuff, that is. (After all, we don’t want the geldings to get to feeling their oats.)
From Macroview To Microview
Parts 1 & 2 delved into the state of the Church with regard to the acceptance of the idea of female superiority. While I will concede the possibility that my marshaling of examples might not be a complete juggernaut of logic, I do think that I’ve presented a case that merits further consideration of this idea as a problem.
Being a guy, though, means that theoretical discussions can become frustrating, and I start wondering when we are going to get around to fixing something. In this case, I’d like to leave the abstract and look at the problem of this bad teaching in concrete terms. And being a person who believes that one’s faith should be put into action, I am given to wondering…
How Does This Play Out In The Sticks?
I get that Eggerichs, Paul Byerly, Paul Coughlin, et. al., have had discussions that let them know that the Feminine Superiority teaching exists, but I begin to wonder how this plays out in a marriage. I get that we can talk about this supposed teaching in the abstract, but what happens when this occurs in the raw, in the face to face interaction of a real marriage? How can this teaching be maintained?
It works. As long as the husband buys into the teaching that he is sinful, it does what it is supposed to. One man I know tells of being in a spiritually abusive church for ten years that taught husbands that they were lower than pond scum and that they needed to heed their wives. The wives loved it and the men were docile enough to submit. He said, “The upshot of this false teaching, and the constant hammering on the congregation’s men, resulted in a lot of men handing over authority of the family to the wives—all because we were told how bad men were, and how spiritually immature.”
As long as the husband buys into it, it works for both. But should he “fall from grace”, or the scales drop from his eyes, he’s in for a fight, because attempting to reclaim ceded authority is met…
Pure spiritual pride. George Bernard Shaw, another great quote machine, is supposed to have said, “Any government that robs Peter to pay Paul can count on the support of Paul.” I’m pretty sure the same dynamic occurs in churches, as well. When the preacher strokes your fur the right way, it feels g-o-o-o-o-d!
And you just know that the preacher is a discerning and perspicacious leader when he tells you just how marvelous you are, that you are a fine asset to the kingdom. And you get to jump to the head of the line in your marriage when the church tells you that you are the fair-haired child. Yeah, pride.
When you think about it, though, doesn’t the whole inconsistency of the situation just floor you? Basically, it’s a complete contradiction, right? After all, someone who is spiritual knows that pride is a sin, that Christians are enjoined to humility, right? I’m pretty sure that this inconsistency isn’t lost on the proud, but I think that there is a reason to continue to desperately hold onto this facade of pride. Any attempt to get at the reality will be met…
Pure fear of exposure. This last one I didn’t tumble to on my own. Last year, I came across one of Sheila Wray Gregoire’s older books, honey, i don’t have a headache tonight, and in the second chapter, I read a paragraph that surprised me, but yet connected with statements I have seen many times over: a wife’s insecurity and low-esteem, a common malady. Gregoire wrote:
Women tend to want to be seen as the “good ones” in the marriage. We usually feel far more vulnerable in relationships than men do,… If we admit to being wrong, we give our husbands a reason to leave. So instead we have to prove that they are the ones who need to improve so they understand what a good deal they’ve got. Why would someone with as many faults as he has leave a relationship? Who else is going to take someone so messed up? We have a vested interest in preserving the status quo, where he is seen as the one who is too demanding, too insensitive, and too unromantic.
~ my emphasis
I think this last, fear of exposure, makes spiritual superiority the security blanket that must be clutched, the last fig leaf to be allowed to hide behind. Holding to a doctrine of spiritual superiority confers an aura of rectitude that is darn near unassailable. If you read different writers and bloggers, you won’t have long to wait before you come across posts and articles about wifely anxiety and esteem problems, and encouragement for these wives to trust that their husbands actually do love and care for them.
Practicality, Pride, Panic ~ Meet Jesus
In my third post on the Church and Porn, I gave my solution for dealing with pornography in our society:
We can do what the church is supposed to do: present the Truth and stand firm in that Truth. When the Church has preached Christ and lived out the truth of the Gospel, then they have affected society and changed the culture around them.
Stand firm in the truth.
I realize that this isn’t a whiz-bang, grab-your-attention solution, but it’s how the Church has changed society down through the ages. Truth triumphs. And for a marriage in which the doctrine of Wifely Superiority has taken root, standing in the truth seems to me to be the only solution. Arguing and fighting over who is “better” is a guaranteed loser from the get-go, and continued compliance is also unacceptable. I know that it would be sexier if I could come up with a five-point plan, with diagrams and dialogs, for changing such a marriage; something like that I could probably turn into an ebook. But, no; as a Christian man/husband, simply stand in the truth of the Word of God.
Here is the truth for both husband and wife. Yes, you are a sinner saved by grace. So is your wife. As such, we are children of the King. But here’s the catch: you also have foibles, faults and failings. And so does your wife. Yes, it is wonderful, even glorious, to be saved, but if you can’t even cop to needing to be saved from your sins, then why do you need a Savior?
In C. S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian, Aslan tells the title character, “You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve. And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; Be content.”
If any of my readers are dealing with this specific problem, I want to offer these suggested resources as tools for dealing with Wifely Spiritual Superiority:
Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs – Excellent book for learning The Crazy Cycle and how to get off of it.
Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend – If you are dealing with sanctimony in your marriage, this book will help you in learning to define acceptable guidelines on attitudes and actions.
My blog post articles on what Loving Your Wife As Christ Loved The Church really means, and how to recognize the manipulation of false LYWACLTC™ teaching.