Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Poison for my marriage

I have sat and listened to some whacked out teachings about gender roles, and especially teachings to women about unilateral submission, why it's important, what it should look like. They were poison. And I ate it up.

It was inevitable that I would, since as a fundamentalist Christian, it was offered everywhere I went. There really isn't any other marriage advice on their radar. In the fundamentalist churches I attended anyway, once you were married the rest of the Bible faded away. You were no longer a disciple of Jesus, you were a wife. And that's the sum total of all you were expected/allowed to be.

Funny thing, my husband also stopped being a brother in the Lord at the same time I stopped being a sister in Christ. Suddenly we were only husband/wife in the teachings I was hearing. No other scriptures applied to our relationship.

Here are some of the falsehoods I was taught, and often by women themselves.

Because I am married, I am no longer to speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15) I am no longer to consider how to spur my husband on to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)

Since Paul would not suffer a woman to teach a man, I should keep my opinions and insights to myself. Yet in all the time my now-husband and I spent together before considering marriage, we were very good friends. We talked about everything. Nothing was off the table. But according to these teachings, once a girl says those vows, she is no longer welcome to share her thoughts and insights. Paul's words were the scripture cited, but there were other reasons given. I'll get to the stated relational excuse in a bit.

Because I am married I cannot help my husband see his fault. (Galatians 6:1)Because I am married, I am not to go to my brother who has sinned against me and seek repentance and restoration. (Matthew 18:25)

A wife should fast and pray before approaching her husband about anything, and then only if she feels she absolutely must. This advice is based on the story of Esther as she has to approach the wicked king Xerxes. Excuse me? I didn't marry a wicked pagan king, I married a brother in Christ. Esther, the exalted concubine, was no valued partner of King Xerxes. She was chosen strictly for her looks and her bedroom skills. Their marriage was hardly an example of the one-flesh union comparable to Christ and the church. Ooh, ick.

Further, because of Peter's advice that a woman with an unbelieving husband can win him over without a word, relying on her quiet and gentle spirit, I was told that I should keep my mouth shut. But again this made no sense to me. I didn't marry an unbeliever! I married a brother in Christ. We met at church and I saw him at prayer meetings, church socials and visitation ministry. He already knows Jesus. I was puzzled.

Because I am married, I am no longer to run the race to win. (Hebrews 12:1,I Corinthians 9:25-26) I can no longer put off falsehood and speak truthfully. (Ephesians 4:25)

I have heard women speakers say that wives who feel their husbands are lukewarm in their faith, are really just making their husbands look bad. Men apparently have really fragile egos and can't take this, so they quit serving the Lord in their struggles with feelings of inadequacy.

A smart wife will hide her devotion to God, pray and read her Bible in secret, and keep her mouth shut about spiritual things unless her husband brings it up. In order to encourage (manipulate) him to discuss spiritual things, a wife should ask her husband questions, feigning spiritual ignorance in order make him feel more spiritual than the little woman.

In other words, she should pretend he is a "spiritual leader" in order to manipulate him into becoming more fervent for God. We are to pretend he's running the race faster than we are, even if in fact he is sitting doing nothing. It amounts to nothing less than living a lie, and dishonoring the Lord by not loving Him with ALL of the wife's heart, ALL of her soul, ALL of her strength, in order to make her man look better.

Yes, it really is that crazy. All that to prop up his ego, lure him into thinking himself a true "man of God" when in fact he is lukewarm and lazy and unconcerned about spiritual matters.

This teaching rewrites Ephesians 4:25 as "put on falsehood"! Though it never sounded right to me, in my fervent desire to please God, I gave it a shot. I admit it. I did. Stupid woman that I was, I was of no help to my husband or my family by living a lie.

I did this because I believed these false teachings. They are simply more of the same old Gothardite lies: be subservient and commit your way to God, pray in sincerity and love, suffer "as unto the Lord" and God will make all the changes in your authority figure that need to be changed. That is such a destructive doctrine.

I was told to engage in "smooth talk and flattery" (condemned in Romans 16:18, Job 32:22) by offering undeserved respect to my husband.

Fundamentalists falsely teach that the greatest need a husband has is to be respected by his wife. Too bad they don't teach that the greatest need a wife and children have is for the man to live a life worthy of their respect. The Bible calls men and women alike to live lives worthy of respect. (I Timothy 3:8,11 and Titus 2:2.) I don't recall reading anywhere that we should give undeserved respect. The scripture that tells wives to respect their husbands does NOT add the caveat "whether they deserve it or not". Yet I have listened to people claim that is exactly what God meant. The God of truth? Are you serious?

Uh, no, a man's greatest need is for authenticity, just like the rest of humanity. Truth is our greatest need. For nothing else we say or do or feel or think is worth experiencing if it is based on a lie.

This whole doctrine is so disrespectful to men. My husand's ego is not so fragile that he needs to be told he is succeeding when he is failing. He is not incapable of serving God or earning respect. A lukewarm man who is coddled like this will be shocked when the day of truth comes, and it will. The truth will out for every person.

One day, the ridiculousness of the whole teaching finally became crystal clear to me. I called to my husband and told him that I had something to say. God had convicted me that I was not to hold back anymore. I showed him in Hebrews that I am to run the race to win, and I am not going to lag behind him pretending he is racing ahead of me anymore.

He was shocked that anyone ever told me I should! 0_0

I determined that day that I would not disrespect God and my husband by following these false teachings one more day. I have his full support on this.

First and foremost, my husband and I are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is who we were when we met, and who we still are. That relationship will never change, and trumps every other relationship we will ever have.

We are the one anothers mentioned in all those scriptures (John 13:34, Romans 12:10,16, 13:8, 14:13, 15:7; I Corinthians 1:10,16:20; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:2,32, 5:19,21; Colossians 3:13,16; I Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13, 10:24,25; James 4:11; I Peter 2:22, 3:8, 4:9, 5:5,14; I John 1:7, 3:11,23, 4:7,11,12; 2 John 1:5). This is how we are called to live as believers, keeping the unity of the Spirit (Romans 15:5, Ephesians 4:3). It is the only way we will ever with one mouth and one mind glorify the Lord (Philippians 2:2).

Once we have that relationship down smooth, we will revisit the scriptures on marriage. It could be a while. =)

(Karen Campbell uses the term "one anothering" in many of her teaching about the Christian home and family. You can find her website at that mom. But it is the Lord who first coined the phrase and the concept.)

I urge anyone reading this post to hold up the totality of any marriage teaching they hear to the light of the one anothering verses, remembering that one another is a two-way relationship.

I encourage you to speak the truth in love to your spouses, spur them on to love and good works. Go to your brother who has sinned against you in gentleness and respect, seeking true repentance and restoration.

I encourage you to always be honest, and never pretend to be someone you are not.

Both of you should live lives worthy of respect.

Don't ever hold back in your pursuit of God! Love the Lord with all your heart, and don't hide it or be ashamed of loving Him. It is the greatest commandment, and it is the most important relationship you will ever have. To God and God alone be the glory!


  1. And I thought *I* got some bad teaching on marriage which it took me years to get over (and he still believes some of it, but that's another story) Isn't it amazing how people can take a simple word like "submit", misinterpret it and then go and add a whole pile of ridiculous unbiblical rubbish to the meaning. I remember being bewildered the first time I got told I had to protect my husband's ego. Silly me, i thought egotism was a sin.Apparently only for females ..

  2. Wow ~ I think this is one of your very best articles EVER.

  3. High praise coming from you, Hillary. Thanks! =)

  4. This is so true that it should just be common sense, and what a shame that it's not. I am married to the most honest man I have ever known, and I both love and hate that about him. (I learned pretty early in our marriage not to ask some questions!) But I respect him enough to want to be honest with him too, and I appreciate the blessing of having for my life partner someone who I know will always tell me the truth. How could you want it any other way?

  5. yes, oh, yes! I absolutely cannot trust in a God who wants us to live in a box, a Lord whose Way of Righteousness demands that I put aside everything that the same God made me to be in order to become a cookie cutter of a person. All these "biblical womanhood" ideals, if taken to a logical extreme (or not so extreme), turn ever so quickly into a vision of someone most definitely not living as the Bible suggests. I love how you make that absurdity so clear in this post.

    Today is the first day I've seen your blog--came by to visit after you stopped in at mine--and I can see I'm going to have to read here more often!

  6. I was referred to your blog and I absolutely love what you have said. I'm going to re read it again; there's so much to gabble here. Thanks for shedding the light on the toxicity of this kind of toxic teaching. Amazing!

  7. Thanks so much for this post. I recently came over here from the "true womanhood" site, and your writing really resonates with me. I spent *years* being miserable in my marriage, after having been raised with those same fundamentalist ideals, thinking that if I could only submit to my husband better and respect him more then his controlling and demeaning behavior would end. God finally impressed upon me the concept of the "one-anothers" and showed me that I was failing my husband as a brother in Christ by allowing him to treat me as he was without telling him the truth about how it affected me.

  8. This was a -- great -- article! Really well done.


    Jim K.

  9. All I can picture are the countless books that espouse the false picture of marriage and how much we need a wave of the truth about relationships! Keep writing. I too am a homeschool mom at the end of my journey but walking alongside some wives and young adults who have been raised with the fundamentalist teaching you grew up with!

  10. This is excellent. It is very popular in the homeschooling movement by certain speakers to teach these very things. I have seen the horridness of it and yes, it is poison. Sadly, the blind follow the blind and many are being effected by this poison.

    blessings to you as you live out what you believe and aren't afraid to stand up for it in love.
    a. ann (resolved2worship on xanga)

  11. God bless you for sharing the real truth about biblical marriages in your blog; what an eye opener it was to me to find similar postings on a marriage ministry website I've been a part of for a couple years! After years of trying to force myself to 'submit' to my husbands abuse and un-Christian behavior; (following the advice of my previous church pastors & members); it was like taking a huge breath of fresh air to have that unfair and abusive burden taken off of me; to know that I didn't have to take his abuse anymore in order to have salvation! Thanks for sharing God's truth for marriages here; God bless you for ministering to others; and showing God's love in action to help wives and families!

  12. Wow. I love this post. Thanks for re-posting it, since I didn't catch it the first time around.