October 25, 2020

Repenting of The Wrong Kind of “Male Leadership”

humility.jpgHere’s the answer to the trivia question “What is the closest the iMonk came to becoming a Muslim?”

In October of 1995, Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan sponsored what was called the “Million Man March” on the mall in Washington, D.C. While probably less than half a million men attended, the march was a high point for African-American men, and certainly had an impact on the evangelical community.

Instead of an event of political rhetoric, the Million Man March was promoted as a day of “atonement and reconciliation.” Men were encouraged to repudiate and repent for behaviors against women, children, the community and themselves. Many African-American men who were aware that Farrakhan was a controversial figure still attended because of their desire to send a message of unity to the larger African-American community.

As sorry and sick a figure as Farrakhan is, the Million Man March was very impressive. Men who attended were serious about change. The feeling behind the talk of sins against women, families and the larger community was very real. The men I’ve known who were there impressed me that they understood the need for men, particularly, to take responsibility for the damage they, particularly, had done.

Now as a Christian, the language of reconciliation and atonement reminds me that there is no gospel in Islam, but for the moment, I’ll say that the desire to repent of “guy sins,” is a good thing, and for the record, I have a bit of admiration for what many men were doing at that March: starting down a road of making things right at home.

I bring this up because I am beginning to wonder if all the emphasis on Christian masculinity is really going anywhere among evangelicals. Evangelicals have decided that gender is the hot topic, but it’s interesting to see what, exactly, is the emphasis: Play your role, i.e. male spiritual leadership.

I’m on the verge of saying that when someone starts talking about “male spiritual leadership,” I’m going to insist they be more specific. Just what does that look like? Especially in the area of repenting of sins against our wives.

Right now evangelicals have a lot of teachers and preachers insisting that men need to be more manly. That Jesus wasn’t a girl. That Christian churches need more wild men, chest hair and biker dudes. Somewhere in there, there are still some men talking about how to honor, serve, love and care about their families, but the current twist of the fad is more along the lines of style, not substance. Announce the way things are going to be from now on.

Thing is, what’s happened before your announcement may be killing your home. Are you and I going to deal with that?

Finding your role, or perhaps announcing that you are now in your role, is one thing. Acting like Jesus in your role is another. And that’s about all I can figure out about “male spiritual leadership” anyway: what kind of husband would Jesus be?

Loving your wife like Christ loved the church is a great directive, but there is one small problem. You’re not Christ, guys. You’re a sinful man like Peter or David. We have sinned against our wives. Announcing we are now the leader is not exactly what’s needed in most cases. Even saying the Gospel grants forgiveness to jerks isn’t all that’s needed. What’s needed is taking some stock of the ways we’ve hurt our spouses, assumed that it was everyone’s job to adjust to our bad decisions and insisted that we don’t need to change as much as others just need to understand. Repentance, that vital part of the Gospel we’d like to leave out, is vital in marriage.

Specific repentance towards our wives would be a lot more of an act of spiritual leadership than announcing we’re going to Promise Keepers with the guys.

Here’s a short list of some of the sins of men against their wives that we need to repent from. If you’re exempt from some or all of these, bully for you. If you are like me, you’re a perfect “F.”

-Listening. Most of us are atrocious at it, devalue its importance and blow off our constant distracted state. It all says to our wives “You don’t matter.”

-Lying. Are you lying to your wife about anything? Are you man enough to tell her and deal with the consequences or are you treating her like a child?

-Lust. Ahem. How did that get in here?

-Irresponsibility with money. Go to a Dave Ramsey seminar with your wife, big guy. Then take a look at all the debts your toys and your need to appear successful have put on your family.

-Arrogance. We know everything and don’t need to learn. We fix everybody. We have all the answers. A real guy specialty right there.

-Contempt. The little woman just needs to be quiet and calm down. You’ve got everything other control. Women. You know how they are. Roll those eyes when you say that.

-Unforgiveness. We demand forgiveness and then we are stingy in sharing it with others. Jesus was very plain on this one. If you want it, you give it.

-Slothfulness. That means you are lazy. You are doing something other than what you ought to be doing. You’re procrastinating. You are disorganized. Your wife has to treat you like a 5th grader.

-Spiritual phoniness.

-Abuse of your authority and role as husband and leader.

-Evil speaking and gossip specifically about your wife in front of others.

-Ignoring what is important to her.

-Failing to pursue, encourage and build her up. In fact, in many cases, actively neglecting her and putting her down.

-Cruelty in words and deeds.


-Pettiness and crass selfishness.

-There’s more. Maybe let her make the list.

Spiritual leadership like Jesus is a good thing. If Jesus is my leader, and not just the one who tells me to lead, I’ll be dealing with my sins and repenting a lot. If talk of spiritual leadership is a way to get more of my way, then it’s a lot of hot air.

Evangelicals like the idea that gender roles recover some of the beauty of what marriage was meant to be. Remember that what marriage was meant to be wasn’t just ruined by failing in spiritual leadership and submission, but my sins against God and against one another.

Recovering spiritual leadership is fine. If we want it to mean something, let’s deal with the sins in our marriages, starting, guys, with us.


  1. OleFossil says

    Ouch, Michael! The guys out there’re gonna be smarting something fierce (I sure would be, if I were one). But there **IS** that verse in PROVERBS that says “Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts”….

    Just wanted to tell you that you have in this one essay summed up the main reasons I chose to stay single my whole life (inspite of 14 marriage proposals—and no, none of them were “repeats”). Before the Fall, marriage must’ve been absolutely divine, but from what I’ve seen (both from watching Christian marriages and from my own dating), post-Garden of Eden, at best it’s an endurance marathon (“good 4 U!”—-like codliver oil,” GAG!), and at worst, it’s the antechamber to hell. (Not that it’s just the guys’ fault. It’s more a case of 2 disparate universes colliding.)

    The ideal husband would be someone who’s a captain-shepherd: neither a wimp, nor a male chauvinist.

  2. Thanks for these challenging words. True, us men, are usually soooo bad here. Maybe one of reasons for this is a deep seated misunderstanding of being male and what that means, both creationally and in Christ. There seems to be, amongst all the hype and spin of spiritual leadership, a profound insecurity on the part of men who are threatend by women, and then act in stupid and sinful ways to attempt to deal with this. Wrong beginnings will only contribute to a flourishing of wrong consequences, and there are plenty to go around.

    Repent and be released, which then will hopefully result in transformed lives lived for Christ, and not our male ego trips.

    I have had the privilige of living in a Christian community for over twenty years and it has taught me a great deal, but I’m still learning to live out the truths of the gospel, both in the wider community and the community at home. I’m grateful that God invites us into primary community with him and that living out of this commuinty gives us hope for change, even radical change, as we move towards our destiny, an inch at a time, of imaging Christ.

  3. David Reimer says

    This was posted on our (26th) anniversary.

    My comment: Amen!

  4. Thank you for embarking upon this journey. As a woman with some eduction in theology and some experience in multi-ethnic urban living, I have found Evangelicalism to be a suburban-white-Guy-Thing. Promise Keepers complain about the pink-clad church, but I’m not a fan of Barbie-Church either. The Emergent Village has a white-boy flair. The swearing Pastor’s Church-Plant video made me swear out loud for days. What God needs is MEN?!?!
    — And I have found no where to rest my borderline burnt-out soul.

    You are right. There ARE some institutional gender sins floating around. God doesn’t need men. God needs people… marriages… families… communities… neighbors… friends. God needs people who are willing to Honor God first, love others next, and to trust in God for everything else.

    Peace out,

  5. Thanks for your thoughts. The overall tone of many of the current “Male Role” pushers is often unbalanced and over the top. Your “Style over Substance” analysis is dead on. This is a great balancing post that shares the importance of the role of man… humility and strength of character. Jesus was balanced with these two qualities, but unfortunately often when the topic of Men is discussed the humility aspect is overlooked.

  6. Awesome, straight up post!

    The Men’s Prayer from the Red Green Show, Possum Lodge:

    “I am a man, I can change, if I have to, I guess. Amen.”

  7. bookdragon says

    First off, this post makes me sooo grateful for my husband – I could think ‘well, sort of, sometimes’ on only two items in that list of sins. But then I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to have both a father and husband who are more concerned with being real human beings than being ‘real men’.

    That said, MrsQ has it right. The whole male leadership trip in various Christian contexts can drive anyone insane. Nearly everytime I run into it, I can’t help thinking ‘Just when did Jesus get replaced with Iron John?’ I mean, wasn’t Jesus’ definition of leadership taking the role of a servant?

    Maybe that’s part of why it gets so confused. The model of leadership/submission we get from culture puts the woman in the servant role – which means within the dynamic of the Kingdom, she ends up being the real leader. Then the men can’t help but sense then that things aren’t quite working out according to plan, but instead of going back to examine the assumptions that got them into trouble in the first place, they just try harder to apply them even more vigorously. It’s a vicious cycle. And it also seems to be fed also by some insecurity men feel about being ‘real men’, particularly in the eyes of the culture.

    You guys have my sympathy on the last point, even if I want to smack you upside the head wrt the first one. I’ve never felt any doubt about being a real woman or having to prove my womanliness to anyone in any context. I have had various people question whether I’m a ‘real Christian’ (over quite a variety of issues), so I can only imagine it’s sort of like that, and I know how frustrating and difficult that can be. But the way out is still to stop letting other people define the terms and rely on God to do it.

    Of course it’s hard, in the same way our wisdom is foolishness is the eyes of the world, being a man like Jesus is frequently wimpishness in the eyes of the world.

  8. First off, I echo bookdragon: Reading this made me even more thankful for my husband leads me by serving me.
    I’ve been frustrated by this “male movement.” You pinpointed part of my frustration re: it being more about style than substance. Ride a Harley, don’t ride a Harley. Who cares? What are the real issues?

  9. I want to argue another side of this, perhaps as the devil’s advocate (because we all know he needs help), but just to frame something that always bothers me when we read scriptural texts on marriage.

    First century culture was so different than our own. The pivotal values were honor and shame; a woman would not speak to her husband as women do today — that’s why reading all the passages on woman in the NT are so inflammatory for us today, but not so much for people then.

    When I see a woman freaking out on her husband publicly, screaming at him or nagging on him, I always remmeber that context is everything when interpreting scriptures. Vice versa for men.

    First century guys simply didn’t have to put up with the disrespect and dishonor that 21st century women, in comparison to first century women, dole out. I don’t think that first century women, as a general rule, would dress, act, or speak the way that 21st century women do. Women in “third-world” cultures don’t act like women in the West do. To read these passages on marriage in our Western, modernist, consumerist culture only fuels our inflated sense of cultural and individual self-importance.

    Now yes, I am speaking in generalities, but I’m not convinced that first century men really had to run anything by their wives or do anything else like that since kinship relationships were already seen as primary, that is, there were set roles for men and women to play and these were unquestionable, not like today when everyone gets to question everything. Seems like the apostles were just running around the countryside with only a few stops now and again to check in on the fam.

    So, while I agree with the list that was presented and I understand the current Evangelical infatuation with all things manly, (I do like John Eldridge’s stuff though, I have to shamelessly admit), we’re wrestling, it seems, not with the text, but with the culture we live in. Our cherished principles of democracy and autonomy get in the way I believe of both men and women submitting to any kind of authority since everyone is made to believe that all opinions should be heard and are of equal inherent worth (which they’re not, perhaps including this one), which reinforces the goal of life as supporting our own sense of autonomy.

    Again, I’m just advocating a different perspective to ponder in the equation.

  10. Aaron said, “Our cherished principles of democracy and autonomy get in the way I believe of both men and women submitting to any kind of authority since everyone is made to believe that all opinions should be heard and are of equal inherent worth (which they’re not, perhaps including this one), which reinforces the goal of life as supporting our own sense of autonomy.”

    A friend’s son recently had to answer the question of how the Declaration of Independence affects our life today. The above quote says it best, I think.
    It struck me recently how much the Declaration sounds like divorce papers.

    I appreciated your point that we are often wrestling more with our culture than we are with the text.

  11. Bob Sacamento says


    I’m new here. I have appreciated reading your posts for the past week or so, and I am intrigued with your “post-evangelical” journey because I feel that I am on one myself (though I think it’s the evangelical movement that is “post” while I haven’t changed all that much, but that is another story …) I hope you don’t mind that my first comment on your site is a criticism, because I really do appreciate what you are doing here.

    But I really feel that in the evangelical mindset, there is no creature lower than the middle aged husband and father. A very small number of these guys get to be big time preachers and authors and what have you, and they are, of course, lionized. But the vast majority of them have to take it on the chin from their wives, their children, their pastors, and their churches on at least a weekly basis. There are now in the evangelical world a few well placed individuals preaching the chest thumping that you rightly decry, but by and large, the evangelical world is preaching that, whatever the church or family problem is, it’s the man’s fault. Even take a look at the chest thumpers like John Eldridge. You don’t have to read very far behind the Braveheart rhetoric in “Wild at Heart” to realize that he is also blaming the man for pretty much every problem that arises in the family. Or Promisekeepers. If I go to a conference do I get to hear how great I am just because I’m a guy? (Not that I should get to hear that at all, mind you.) No. I get to hear what a worthless excuse I am for a husband and father.

    I could marshall stories and facts and figures to make my point, but I don’t want to do that. I just want to get this off my unthumped chest. And to encourage everyone to look behind the stereotypes and take a hard look at what is really going on in real evangelical families and churches.

  12. Bob…I really don’t disagree with you. I believe evangelicalism is feminized, and I believe some of that feminization is oppressive to men.

    I also believe evangelical men are messing up their homes, children and marriages and bear a big responsibility for damage to our culture and the church.

    I’m yes and yes on this issue.

  13. Bob and Aaron, I couldn’t agree with you more!! One of my reasons for leaving evangelicalism is because I couldn’t live up to the ideals that were being held up for not only a “Christian Family” but also a “Christian Husband/Father”. I never heard anything about what a “Christian Wife” was supposed to do (I have yet to see a woman live up to both Provers 31 and Eph. 5, it all seems contradictory. But I degress).

    Because of the uncessary stress on Sunday mornings, my wife and I would fight like banchees while getting ready for church. When the kids got old enough to join in, they too contributed. We yelled and screamed at each other all the way to the front door of the church. When we walked into church, sweat dripping down our stress marked faces, we strained to smile and pretend that we were so happy to be there. Sitting down and hearing how bad of a husband and father that I am (after all, everything was my fault) and then spending the rest of Sunday trying to come down off the guilt trip I was placed on, was way too much for me and I quit. My wife, although a large source of the problems, would never own up to helping me lead or raise our children – afterall it was a man’s duty to do so, the church said so!

    I agree with the premise of the entry, but I’m not holding my breath until I get an answer that is truly biblical.

  14. Michael, I couldn’t agree more and just want to throw in my 1.5 cents. It is a directive to love our wives as Christ loved the church. The other part of that verse though is the way Christ loved the church. He gave up his life. Kind of takes the wind out of any chest-thumping, I want things my way, male leadership.

    I can’t think of too many things that are more heroic or manly than completely sacrificing yourself in order to save the person you love. Personally I have a hard time giving up a baseball game for my wife at times. And yes, you could put my name next to most, if not all of the items on your list.

    The point is, I guess, that there really is a certain amount of heroism and strength that men are called to. It’s just that it’s cloaked in things like humility, and self-sacrifice and I’m not really sure how it all plays out in real life.

    Sorry for rambling.

  15. To follow up:

    Isn’t the arguement (or discussion rather) here really about how masculinity is “socially” constructed, not only in our culture or any culture, but within Evangelicalism?

    I get the fact that Ev’s tend to feminize men, and I get the counter-response in John Eldridge et.al (though I totally dig the idea of initiation, though maybe not all of Eldridge’s methodology) but isn’t that something of a false dichotomy in that there is some responsiblity to be taken by wives in all this? Not that I am entirely blame-shifting here, but (and this is probably true for men too) aren’t there wives who’s entire self-worth and identity is tied up in their role as a wife? In other words, what they do becomes who they are. Some wives are black holes that a man, regardless of even if he did love her “perfectly”, could never fill that ditch that is in her heart.

    It just strikes me that the Evangelical blame-the-man game, both in the feminization of our Ev. Churches (to tame the savage beast of the masculine) and in the “Wild at Heart” masculinity movement (to release the beast from the taming) are really just two sides of one coin. How do we break this kind of tired dichotomy? And what else is attached to such a dichotomy as to fuel it and power it? My hunch is that it is something that was bequethed to us in the Enlightenment project and subsequently is a part of modernism. Sadly, most of our churches are all modernist churches, believing Enlightenment assumptions, thus we’re all confused between what we read in the text and the Western world that we live in. If we are going to be true to the redemptive narrative of our faith, then it looks like there is some kind of “prophetic” role-playing in Ephesians 5 — a wife submits to her husband, just as the Church submits to her Lord. If we are to trust the Lord’s decisions, should wives trust their husbands? Is there some kind of heirarchy there? But we don’t raise our daughters that way, nor are our wives (in my experience) that way. Women these days don’t like the “S” word (submit), and men, having been threatened and trashed by radicalized feminists, courts, and culture, sure seem to back away from taking responsibility? How is our view of marriage intertwined with our ecclesiology? That would be an interesting discussion. Sorry so long.

  16. Michael:

    Thank you for this very insightful article. I feel as I am between the gears (and being grinded) when viewed by the modern men’s movement.

    I am appalled at the Promise Keepers movement. I too experienced the “No. I get to hear what a worthless excuse I am for a husband and father.” (and also a man) mentality that Bob Sacramento discussed. Try being in your late 30’s and still single. You get further ‘stigmatized’ as being ‘dysfunctional’ and get looked down upon if your career field is not in the ministry, sales, marketing, financials, stock brokers, insurance, and real estate. Tell them that you are in engineering and then you are viewed and labeled as being one that does the “M” while viewing Internet pornography at 3 AM in the morning while playing World of Warcraft against Ravi in India and Sean in Canada.

    I also read Wild At Heart and watched the DVD’s from the Pentecostal Ponderosa. While most of the content was interesting, it has turned into a fantasy role-playing game mentality of seizing the castle and rescuing the damsel in distress. Men need real answers in their walk with Christ and not to be constantly beaten down and berated.

    In the issue concerning ‘irresponsibility with money’ when you stated “Then take a look at all the debts your toys and your need to appear successful have put on your family.” In my part of the country, the Christian men do not have nice toys, the Christian wife does and wears very nice clothes. The Christian man wears his re-stitched shirts and pants and drives the 15 year old Honda Accord to work that’s about to fall apart while Christian wife gets a new minivan every three years and has more dresses than a dress shop and almost the same amount of shoes as Imelda Marcos had.

    Christian man’s wallet is micromanaged to where he is like Dominos Pizza delivery boys and carries less than 20.00 to last him for a two week pay period and no credit cards and carries his peanut butter sandwich and bottled water to work while Christian wife spends the finances into bankruptcy and buys every Jesus Junk trinket at the Christian bookstore. In many places, Christian man doesn’t get to go anywhere unless it’s at church (going anywhere by himself is giving him a chance to commit adultery or to stop by unsaved friends house to look at Playboy), wife is constantly calling his cellphone to track him, and Christian woman goes anywhere she likes while Christian man babysits, clothes, and bathes the six homeschooled kids while she is at women’s ministry meetings getting ‘fed’ but instead gripes about how her husband never lives up to God’s (aka her) expectations.

    No wonder men feel defeated, frustrated, suppressed, etc. and all we get are pat answers to further feminize us or the other extreme of overfleshing ourselves. The balance must be out there somewhere.

  17. OleFossil says

    Aaron posed the interesting question about the “H” word, “Is there some kind of heirarchy [sic] there?” My take on that is, yes: the husband is the king and the wife is the queen, or in modern terms, he’s the prez and she’s the vice-prez.

    Totem, that wife you’re describing must be an exception, bec. in the many homeschooling marriages I’ve for years seen out here where I live (SoCal), the women are most DEFINITELY submitted (often to the pt. of causing me claustrophobia, just watching and listening to them). And this in both Evangelical as well as Reformed churches.

  18. Yo Totem:
    In my part of the country, the Christian men do not have nice toys, the Christian wife does and wears very nice clothes.
    Sorry dude, but this is a residual effect NOT of Christianity, but of American Suburban Middle-Class Culture. Post industrial post WWII American economics are pretty unique to this planet when you consider the greater perspective of world history. The At-Home Do-Nothing stepford wife is an american franken-freak. Sorry honey. Please don’t blame Jesus (or ‘Eve’) for this phenomenon.

    One of my reasons for leaving evangelicalism is because I couldn’t live up to the ideals that were being held up for not only a “Christian Family” but also a “Christian Husband/Father”. I never heard anything about what a “Christian Wife” was supposed to do …Because of the uncessary stress on Sunday mornings, my wife and I would fight like banchees while getting ready for church.
    I know those arguments. Please realize that they exist because of the pressure upon BOTH of you. What pressure is there on your wife? To bite her tongue, even when she sees a better way of doing things. To be pretty and kind, even when overwhelmed and depressed. To lovingly and supportively help raise the children, even when the father hardly sees them or knows them. Frankly, I hate this Pink Barbie-Churchiness(tm) of which you both were frustrated. It’s as plastic and as fake as that buxom little toy with the spike heels.

    First century culture was so different than our own. The pivotal values were honor and shame; a woman would not speak to her husband as women do today — that’s why reading all the passages on woman in the NT are so inflammatory for us today, but not so much for people then.
    I’ve studied the Sociology of the NT extensively and have to wonder what evidence you have of this? Also, if women’s behavior is different now than then, why are there OT scriptures about the anxiety of marital struggle? I understand Honor/Shame culture. I just don’t understand how you come to your conclusions from the historical data.
    Sorry dude.

    – – – – – – – –
    Yo folks – read Genesis again. Remember that story of the Fall into Sin? Man and Woman lived in peace until we disobeyed God. Then, we immediately started blaming one another for our own sinful natures. THAT is when the “H” situation happened, and THAT is when Man (Adam) named the Woman Eve… like she was just another animal under his domain.

    Male Headship is a result of the Fall. Only in Christ is there no slave/free, jew/gentile, or man/woman. Only in Christ are we delivered from economic, ethnic, and gender prejudice.

    Read Genesis Again… for the first time. 🙂

  19. OleFossil says

    MizQ: ” THAT is when Man (Adam) named the Woman Eve… like she was just another animal under his domain.”

    As a non-feminist Xtian woman, I nonetheless chafe at the verse in GENESIS 3 that says, “he shall rule over you.” It is revolting. Even so, I never viewed Adam’s naming of Eve (which precedes the Fall, as you’ll recall) as an extension of what he did with the animals. On the contrary, his naming her always struck me as an expression of the intense intimacy there was between them; after all, she was made of his bones (look also @ how in the N.T. that concept is reiterated in connection with the oneness between Christ and His flock: “For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” [EPH. 5:30])—-how much more united can a man and a woman get? 🙂 It seems to me that one might even be able to recognize in that emergence from his bones an earthly mini-echo of the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, of the Most Perfect Oneness in the universe.

  20. bookdragon says

    Dudes, I don’t even know where to start. Do you even know what a pathetic bag of contradictions the ‘men have it so hard’ posts add up to?

    First, if you are going to bemoan modern Western women not submitting like 3rd world or 1st century women (who may not have been all that submissive if you bother reading history), you just do NOT get to also whine about how everything is on you. Guess what? If you insist on being in charge, you get the responsibility.

    Second, if evangelicalism is so ‘feminized’, why is everything all about YOU (guys) and what YOU need to be and how YOU need do x, y, and z? Seems to me a ‘feminized’ anything have a lot more sermons focused on the women…

    Third, if you think there is no pressure on evangelical women to meet similarly ridiculous standards, go back and re-read Michael’s list with special emphasis on the one about listening. In our society, pretty much everything is the mother’s fault (and pretty much any choice she makes is wrong). And since the white-suburban-evangelical ideal of womanhood is a homeschooling Stepford wife who always looks like a Barbie doll (because we all know now that letting yourself go might lead your husband into temptation), there’s a pretty impossible standard to meet there too. (and to the guy who complained about a husband being asked to watch the homeschooled kiids while the wife went to women’s ministry meeting: Get a clue!)

    Lastly, Jesus said ‘You will know a tree by it’s fruit.’, so if you don’t think you can find a rational path between chest thumping and being hen-pecked girlie men, may you need to take a good hard look at the tree you’re harvesting from – namely the set of assumptions about how marriage and the male/female relationship are supposed to work. Because frankly I don’t see this sort of thing in the more egalitarian streams of Christianity.

  21. Bob Sacamento says

    Well, I guess I and a couple of others have really opened up a can of worms here. Maybe I can moderate my position a bit and still get some sympathy for the men. I am not a real big fan of the old “submission of the wife” school of thought. I don’t particularly want a doormat for a wife. Doormats aren’t particularly interesting. (I would actually be ashamed of myself if my wife fit that desription.) And I know that women have their share of problems in modern society.

    But my point is that evangelical churches address — or, at least attempt to address — women’s problems constantly. When they do pay attention to men, it is usually (OK, not always!) to tell them how so many problems in the church and the family are their fault. OK, fine, plenty of men cheat, drink, ignore their kids, don’t do anything with their lives except collect welfare, etc. But most men in evangelical churches — the ones I have known my whole life, anyway — are faithful, sober, bring home the bacon, and give a good bit of what energy they have left over to their kids. But in the evangelical church, it’s just never enough. If you’re a middle aged, wage earning dad and husband, it is assumed — if the books and sermons are an accurate guide of what people are assuming — that you are a deadbeat, and a heartless one at that.

    If you want an example or such a sermon, here’s one I heard very recently from a well known, very conservative minister: He did a whole series on the Biblical role of man and wife. When he got to the part about “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church”, he said, “Guys, you may have a wife who has, with no regret or shame whatsoever, crushed your hopes and dreams. It doesn’t matter. You are to love her just as Christ loves you.” Yep. He said that. But then he came to “Wives, submit to your husbands …” and he most certainly did not say, “Ladies, you husband may have never done an honest day’s work in his life. It doesn’t matter. You have to submit to him.” No, he bent over backwards to explain that submitting doesn’t mean doing what you’re told to.

    Now, I don’t want a Christian woman to have to submit to a deadbeat. And I don’t want a Christian woman to have to “do what she’s told”. But what I would I love to see is some evenhandedness in that preacher’s sermons. And if you don’t know it, his sermons are very typical of what gets preached in evangelical churches now!

    The “Biblical roles” of both wife/mother and husband/father are regularly extolled from our pulpits. But the thing is, not only the role of wife, but the wives themselves, are regularly held up as paragons of virtue (or at least as helpless victims), but no one ever has a good thing to say about the husbands themselves. Am I really asking for so much?

    I don’t particularly want to “be in charge” like my ancestor males might have been in A.D.150. But to turn bookdragon’s comment around, “If you insist on giving men the responsibility, then they get to be in charge.” The points is that the evangelical church these days makes sure that 1) we guys are never in charge and 2) the problems are all our fault anyway.

    I don’t want to add problems to the women’s lives. I just want some fair treatment for us guys, too. And, no, fair treatment is not what we are getting in evangelical churches as things stand now.

    I really wish we could dump the “love your wife” “submit to your husband” thing for a while and go back to that stuff we were taught in Sanuday School, but managed to forget: “Love your neighber as yourself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do into you.”

  22. Bob,

    “I really wish we could dump the ‘love your wife’ ‘submit to your husband’ thing for a while and go back to that stuff we were taught in Sanuday School, but managed to forget: ‘Love your neighber as yourself’ and ‘Do unto others as you would have them do into you.'”

    I agree…there are a lot of passages that I find annoying. Problem is, they’re the Word of God. Paul is not against Jesus and vice versa.

    The way a husbands loves his wife is both “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25) and “as [they love] their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28, 33).


    Great article. Very challenging. I agree that Christian manliness is often more style than substance. What does it mean to truly love your wife? I think your list is a great start. The listening one…wow, did you have to go there? 🙂

  23. Jeremiah Lawson says

    Bob, I’m in my early 30s and have never been married. I know marriage is held up as the standard means to display godliness. I know that some pastors have said that guys are like trucks and drive better carrying a heavy load. That may be true. Still, I have been diffident about accepting the value of such statements because it seems that most people get married for reasons that seem less than rational and then get advised to stick with marriage in Christian circles for reasons that seem to appeal to the rational (i.e. do what God commands). If we are tainted by sin, though, how do we find the strength to do what we instinctively understand isn’t instinct?

    Perhaps more to my point, take that pastor who talked about how wives might crush a man’s dreams. Perhaps the thing with white middle aged evangelical men having their hopes and dreams crushed by their wives isn’t really entirely (if at all) the doing of the wives. What if men deliberately sacrifice all their hopes and dreams attempting to create what they feel is the family they should create as Christians and discover along the way that they dreams they sacrificed were dreams based on their genuine loves and interests. If that’s what happened it can’t possibly be just the fault of the husband or wife and may have happened without any observation.

    Is it possible marriages become miserable because of unacknowledged double-mindedness? I wouldn’t know from experience but seeing all these comments back and forth have gotten me wondering if it’s a possibility.

  24. RahabToo says

    Some of the how-to teaching specifically to women about becoming a Proverbs 31 woman has had an emphasis on praying for personal change. There was a challenge to prove God. If I focus, as a wife, on my obedience to the scripture and prayer, God Himself would do the necessary work on my husband. Then almost miraculously one day he would be the man of God I longed for.

    Ha Ha Ha…I could say. God gotcha. Well, the theory may be pure. The problem is I am not. Just the gotcha motive alone reveals the flaw.

    The good news is that if I am focused on personal change rather than his, I become content with who he is and that produces the real change. As a product of the dissapointment of my mother, my focus on being independent of any man has encouraged a generation of men to feel somewhat justified in their role abdication.

    Maybe that miracle of a Godly man can happen collectively when we as women acknowledge our part in his error. We bought the lie sold in the 60s and 70s that being prepared for his inevitable abdication was the more important focus.
    W-O-M-A-N was the anthem that helped create this leadership crisis we are currently in.

    Mmmm, maybe we could do a million woman march to repent as well.

  25. Discerner says

    Are we headed backwards? The author of GARBAGE GENERATION (see link below) claims that matriarchy is the “default” mode of humans (he himself argues against matriarchy’s validity).


  26. RahabToo says

    Thanks Discerner

    Even when that opinion is based in historical fact by well-meaning scholars, worldview is all the difference in forming opinion and perspective. A strong Christian worldview then, makes opinion other than that influenced by the scripture more than suspect. What happened to a fallen creature as he made his way is always well described historically. Understanding it is in fact fallen happens when the mind is renewed.

  27. Discerner says

    True, Rahab, paradigm dictates perspective. But if indeed matriarchy was once the dominant mode, then all the modern feminist slavering is a devolution. It would seem that when the matriarchal order is trying to reinstate itself, there’d be mass confusion for the males, including the Christian ones (witness several of the comments above).

  28. Discerner,
    That link is nonsense. Whether humanity had a matriarchal system a million years ago is impossible to determine from archaeological records. The data on the ground could be twisted in this way based upon the anthropological models being used, but it’s not something that can seriously been considered a known entity.

    What is a known entity is that there are no recorded matriarchal systems from antiquity to today. For a while, some thought that there might have been such a system among the Hittites in their early days, but that also turned out to be nothing but a pipe dream. In all of recorded history there is no evidence to back your assertions.

    I would recommend Cynthia Eller’s The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory which is a good summation of the issues involved.

  29. Bob Sacamento says

    Just in case anybody is still reading this thread, I wanted to clarify a couple of things I said.

    Greg, I wasn’t trying at all to set up Paul against Jesus. but after I re-read what I wrote, I guess I can see how you could interpret it that way. My complaint is against what I see as a misplaced emphasis in evangelicalism. When we think about Christian marriage we *immediately* jump to “husbands love / wives submit” with all the attendant problems this caused for women up until about 1975 and, in my not so humble opinion, for men after about 1980. It’s kind of like we think we don’t need the “milk” of the Golden Rule or the Second Greatest commandment anymore. So we jump to this “meat”. But more and more to me it looks like we never really digested the “milk”. And maybe if we did we would then have the perspective we really need for the “love / submit” stuff.

    Jeremiah, Perhaps the thing with white middle aged evangelical men having their hopes and dreams crushed by their wives isn’t really entirely (if at all) the doing of the wives. The point I was trying to make was not that “Wives crush their husbands dreams.” My beef was with the inequity in the pastor’s sermon. He himself set up a hypothetical of a woman who had pretty much ruined her husband’s life through her own immaturity, selfishness, whatever, and then he said the husband had to love her anyway. He made no such demands at all on the wives. This inequity struck me horribly unfair, and fairly typical of what men have to hear from our evangelical pulpits these days. If you want another example, just this week I was listening to a pastor at a fundmentalist mega-church. He was preaching on “letting your light shine” … no husband wife stuff at all. Then he said, “You know why our children don’t let their lights shine? Because they don’t see any light at home.” Then he said (and these are his words, not mine, and I have this almost word for word) “There aren’t any fathers out there who have wicks in their candles.” He paused for a moment and I wondered if he was going to let the mothers have it with the other barrel, but he didn’t. He just went back to his main topic. Typical.

  30. All these comments are very interesting. It is true that we all have sinned and fallen short of the lory of God and we need to repent. But at the same time God created us Male and Female. Assigning blame and repenting is actually good if a sin has been commited. In the case of a husband not listening to his wife every time she talks what has he done wrong? Where in scripture does it say that a husband should listen to his wife every time she speaks. We are called to love our wives and that love can take many forms. Personally I am fairly one track minded. If I’m doing something and my wife wants to tell me something I need to stop what I’m doing and listen. Stopping is an act of love. Is interuption what someone is doing to talk about something that may or may not be important right or wrong? Yes men can show love to their wives by listening and doing everything on the list but their are far more ways than that. Currently I am a student working to become a pastor. Between course work and other assignments I have a lot of work to do. When I work on stuff at home I need my wife to not talk to me. Am I sinning by doing the work God has called me to do so I can provide for my family? The reality is that men and women express love in different ways. To truely do God’s will in our lives and marriages we need to find out how we as men or women express God’s love to others. I probally don’t verbally tell my wife I love her enough. But I have others ways of saying the same thing in nonverbal ways. Now why should men have to express love towards their wives in ways that women would express it. There are other items on the list that are just sins. Both men and women sin and sin destrys relationships. It makes sense that any sin will harm a marriage. St. Paul encourages us to love our wives the same way that Jesus loves the church. Jesus loved the church so much he died for us so he could forgive our sins. Men we don’t have to sacrifice our lives to show our wives we love them we just have to do what ever is nessacary to forgive them when they sin. And then we hope that our wives do the same when we sin against them.
    One last point. As Christians we love one another. Anything in a marriage that hurts one peron or the other is a sin against that person. Most behavior things in marriage we cannot know how it will effect our spouse. For all we know we may be hurting them by trying to ‘do the right thing’. Because of sin we will constantly be hurting one another. One problem of evangelical Christianity is that they teach and beleive humans can live without sin. Until we enter paradise we must live with our sinful flesh and fight not to hurt people. At the same time we are sinless because Jesus has taken away our sins. The same applies to marriage. No marriage is going to be perfect this side of heaven and yet through forgiveness all marriages are perfect.

  31. Farrakhan is about as close orthodox Islam as Gordon Hinckley is to orthodox Christianity.

  32. Bob Sacamento,

    I think you’d be equally disappointed to read John Chrysostom’s thoughts on the husband-wife relationship back in the late 4th century. His sermon on Ephesians 5 has the same “inequity” you bemoan:

    “So even if you might need to give your life for her, and even if you have to be cut into pieces ten thousand times, and furthermore, to endure and undergo any suffering whatsoever, don’t refuse it. Even if you should experience all of this, you still will not have done anything like what Christ did. For you do it for the one whom you are already knitted to; but He did it for one who turned her back on Him and hated Him. So then just as He brought to His feet, not by threats, nor by violence, nor by terror, nor by anything else like that, but rather by his unwearying affection, her who turned her back on Him, who hated, and rejected, and disrespected Him, so then also you must you act towards your wife. So even when she looks down on you, and disrespects, and rejects you, if you still show her great thoughtfulness, kindness, and affection, she will submit to you. For there is nothing more persuasive than these bonds, and especially for husband and wife. One might be able perhaps to bind down a servant through fear; actually, not even him, for soon enough he will just pack up and leave. But one ought never to hold captive the partner of one’s life, the mother of one’s children, the foundation of one’s every joy, by fear and threats, but with love and gentleness. For what sort of union is that, where the wife is afraid of her husband? And how much will the husband himself enjoy it, if he lives with his wife like she is a slave, and not free? So, no matter what you might have to suffer on her account, do not be harsh with your wife, for this is not how Christ treats His.”