The recent uproar over John Piper’s answer to the question, “What should a wife’s submission to her husband look like if he’s an abuser?” (See http://strivetoenter.com/wim/2009/08/21/john-piper-on-submission-in-abuse/comment-page-1/#comment-7071), has largely focused on biblical principles Piper’s recommendations violated, as well as his seeming ignorance about the dynamics of abusers, their behavior and their relationships, and the effects of the abuse as well as the behavior of those the abuser targets—usually his wife and children. The comments did not compare what he said in his answer with what he has written elsewhere.
In the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which he co-authored with Wayne Grudem, Piper’s views are radically different from his answer to The Question. Piper wrote Chapter 1, “A Vision of Biblical Complementarity: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible.” Piper believes “Mature masculinity expresses itself not in the demand to be served, but in the strength to serve and to sacrifice for the good of women.” He goes on to explain that leadership is not a demanding demeanor, but rather moving things forward toward a goal. He emphasizes that the husband is to love his wife like Jesus loved the church when He gave himself up for her. (Italics are Piper’s.) Piper apparently classifies abusive husbands as immature, since they demand slavery from their wives and consider it unmanly to be anything but the top dog,.
His 3rd point defining mature masculinity is that it “does not presume superiority, but mobilizes the strengths of others.” Piper’s definition again classifies abusive husbands as immature, since they are notorious for exalting themselves and abasing their wives.
His 5th point, “Mature masculinity accepts the burden of the final say in disagreements between husband and wife, but does not presume to use it in every instance,” also classifies abusive husbands as immature, since they are known for demanding the final say in the most ridiculous instances and some demand the final say in every instance.
His 9th point is that “mature masculinity recognizes that the call to leadership is a call to repentance and humility and risk-taking,” and his explanation emphasizes that a responsible man must be careful and humble in his leading. Here again, Piper's definition labels abusive husbands as being immature, since their carefulness is to manipulate, deceive, lie, demand, or whatever it takes to be in control of their wives. And humility is non-existent. Except perhaps for an abuser’s occasional show of repentance when he fears he will lose his reputation or even lose his wife. He may be “humble” when he asks other controlling and abusive men how to win over his wife in a particular area, but it is not a true humility since one of his core beliefs is that he is superior to his wife, even if she outshines him in every way.
Another point Piper makes is that “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women…” He states that this sense of responsibility is for “women in general, not just for wives or relatives.” Piper uses the illustration of a man walking along the street with a woman, who may be his wife, his sister, his friend, or a total stranger, and “an assailant threatens the two of them with a lead pipe. Mature masculinity senses a natural, God-given responsibility to step forward and put himself between the assailant and the woman. In doing this he becomes her servant. He is willing to suffer for her safety. He bestows honor on her. His inner sense is one of responsibility to protect her because he is a man and she is a woman.”
Since abusers fail the mature masculinity test in the above statements, we have to conclude Piper considers them immature. But why would he refuse to do anything to address the issue? Why would he tell wives to endure for a season, until their abuser “smacks” them? On the one hand he seems to deny that a pattern of “verbal unkindness” is domestic abuse, but on the other, his mention of a husband “smacking” his wife suggests he does know that “verbal unkindness” sometimes escalates into physical violence. According to Piper’s own view of mature masculinity, his refusal to protect the wives in his congregation until AFTER a physical attack from their own husbands, classifies him with those whose masculinity is IMMATURE.
If Piper really believes these statements that he wrote, he should be telling abused wives to alert him as soon as they recognize abuse so that he can confront the abuser with training on how to be a mature husband. Instead of drawing the line at physical abuse, he should teach his congregation that unkind verbal assaults are absolutely NOT ACCEPTABLE. But he doesn’t. Instead he allows the abuse to go on and on and on—apparently for as long as the abuser does not resort to hitting his wife. He does NOTHING to protect her until AFTER she has been assaulted.
Piper’s own written words when held up next to his answer to the question, “What should a wife’s submission to her husband look like if he’s an abuser?” classify him as one with immature masculinity. And his written statements along with their implication that HE is a mature man who would step in to protect women, when put side by side with his spoken answer, expose his hypocrisy.
Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel,"a story about a woman who grapples with her husband's demands that she submit--no matter what. Please visit www.wanetadawn.com
Chronically Self-Centered Spouse Series - Nope, I'm not doing this series. Nope, Visionary Womanhood is not doing this series. But I do thank Natalie for linking to it over there a couple years back...
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