Friday, December 10, 2010

If Father knows Best Why are Wives Choosing Divorce?

There is a five-fold fallacy in the husband-authority doctrine, and it results in divorce.
First, it requires the very person who is prone to keep himself detached from others to make decisions for them as if he was up-to-date about the details he needs to know in order to make a wise decision.
Second, is the assumption, by both the husband and his peers, that the decisions the husband makes truly ARE best for his family.
Third, is the reasoning that in those “rare occasions” that the husband makes poor decisions, it is enough for the husband to bear 100% of the responsibility (meaning blame) for his decision, neither blaming his wife for her input, nor blaming her for his decision. This focus exposes a belief that the husband's poor decision(s) will harm no one but himself and/or his finances/concerns, that somehow his wife and children are insulated from his poor judgment and will not be effected.
Fourth, is the assumption if the husband isn't harmed by his decision, it was likely a good one, therefore if the wife doesn't like it, she should just submit and get over it.
Fifth, all of this is decreed by God, Himself, and anyone who argues against it is a feminist who is rebelling against God.

With these beliefs, instead of building their marriages on Christ and His principle of the Golden Rule and not taking authority over others, complementarians build their marriages on a foundation of male-promoting gravel that lacks the cement necessary to hold marriages together. Instead of being able to point to a notably low divorce rate, which one should expect from the Christian community, conservative Christians have a higher divorce rate than atheists do. Making matters worse, they blame feminism and female rebellion for their failure and refuse to look at the real cause.

By pressuring husbands to take authority over their wives, complementarians urge husbands (whether or not they realize they are urging them) to distance themselves from their wives in order to rule them. Husbands tend to discredit and devalue their wives and their input, and tell themselves that they are making objective decisions because they know things that women are too ignorant and too emotional to know or decide. Husbands often pat themselves on the back because they “listened” to their wives, even if they already had their minds made up and would be unlikely to value any input from their wives.

The belief in husband wisdom and near-infallibility, blinds Christian men to the multitude of important information that they do not know and have no interest in knowing or considering. Because they think only male-interest information is worth taking into account, they deny the experiences, make-up, and development processes of both wives and children. When they believe that other experiences, perceptions, feelings, etc don't exist in their wives and children, or when they perceive they do exist but must be discounted, and when concrete facts are the only basis for decision-making, husbands limit themselves from pertinent information to such a degree they are LIKELY to make poor decisions. This denial both makes them believe they made the best decision, blinds them to other decisions they could have made, and blinds them to the devastating effects their decisions are making on their wives and children.

Husbands who claim to prayerfully consider the best interests of their wives, defend the right of other husbands to wield authority over their wives and expect them to submit to the decisions of their husbands. They justify this by saying the husband will then be the one to take responsibility and the blame for the decision.

I had a discussion about this with a man recently and pointed out that it was immaterial whose fault it was; the problem was that so often a husband's decision ended up causing major pain, distress, and even damage to his wife and children. He looked startled, as if he had never considered that. He seemed to think that taking the blame somehow justified the harm a husband brought on his famiy through the use of a doctrine that required his wife to lay down what she thought was best and accept her husband's decree as a law she must embrace--even against her will.

The notion of justifying the insistance that the wife must yield herself to her husband's decisions by saying the husband would then take responsibility for his decisions and absolve the wife of all blame totally ignores the effect of the decison on wife and children. They assume the husband alone bears the distress of his disasterous decisions. I have yet to hear any preacher talk about the wife and children harmed and hurting because the husband over-rode his wife's decision and brushed off her advice. They fail to mention that her husband's financial failure forces her to go without and to work extra hard to make up for it. Her husband does NOT carry the blame alone. The community, and especially the IRS, holds her just as accountable, and often more accountable than her husband. But in the case of decisions her husband makes refusing needed medical care or education for the children, his wife and children suffer and work for years to overcome the handicap the husband ordered upon them. This is an uncomfortable truth the complementarians refuse to deal with.

Further, if wives protest the decisions their husbands make, their husbands, pastors, other husbands and even other wives, claim the wives are rebellious. They deny that the reason for the protest is the distress and suffering they and their children are enduring because of the high-handed decisions of their husbands. Again and again, it isn't simply that wives don't like the decisions. It is that they and their children are harmed and even damaged by the decisions. Decisions that range from, 'No, we will not participate in the family gathering on YOUR side,' to 'You and the children will attend a church of MY choice,' to 'I will choose where we eat out every time unless it doesn't matter to me,' to 'No, Junior does not need tutoring, and I certainly will not pay for it,' to 'We will NOT use birth control, and you will satisfy my sex urge anytime I want you to, and you will bear and care for as many children as are conceived by our union, without outside help even if it ruins your health,' and etc, DO harm his wife and children and stunt their growth and cause them unnecessary hardship. Yet, the husband often is not aware of the harm he has caused. Instead, he believes he is a loving and wonderful husband and father, who does what is best for his wife and children. He believes his wife needs to repent of her spirit of rebellion and submit joyfully to her husband's decisions, and often his pastor and church will agree with him.

Finally, the belief that God has decreed that husbands are to take authority over their wives brings us full circle back through the whole fallacy. If God decreed it, it doesn't matter if the decisions the husbands make are wise or if they damage their families. All that matters is that the wives “submit” (meaning obey to the point of agreeing with their husbands and laying aside their own will and beliefs) and that children obey, too (although they are allowed to have their own thoughts as long as they keep them private). If the ill-equipped wife must tutor Junior, she and Junior must devote much more time to the process than it would take for a trained tutor to do the job. The result is that Junior may never learn what he needs to succeed at life, and many chores will be left undone and other children left unattended. She, her children, and her family of origin will be harmed by the family split her husband created, and because she is never allowed to decide anything for herself, she will atrophy in this area, getting slower and less decisive in decisions she must make on her own. The house may get messy, for example, because she cannot decide what to do with things.

The bottom line is that although the Bible not only never tells husbands to take authority over their wives, and also tells them to NOT take authority over others, males teach that it does command husbands to take authority over their wives. They discard valuable knowledge from their wives, including the intimate knowledge that wives have about themselves and their children, and claim their own knowledge is superior. The damage and oppression they inflict is what is driving wives to reluctantly choose divorce. Yet, these husband-authorities refuse to look at the destructive elephant which is so obvious in complementarian marriages. In the words of Caleb in "Fireproof," complementarian husbands are "trampling all over their wives."

Complementarians have what they deserve: a high divorce rate. They can insist that marriage is for keeps and that wives must not divorce, but until they teach that husbands share power, authority, and decision-making with their wives, the divorce rate will remain high and is likely to increase.

Husbands are never commanded to rule or control their wives. Whatever head means, the application is to submit one to another, and for husbands to love their wives, caring for them tenderly as they care for their own bodies, and to love them, giving themselves up as Christ gave himself up for the church. When husbands do marriage the Jesus way, by treating their wives as they want to be treated, which includes not over-ruling them or taking authority over them, wives will be inclined to stay married to their husbands.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.


  1. Waneta, you've nailed it. And another thing I remember being taught by "complementarians" is that when the husband makes a bad decision and the wife and/or family has suffered because of it, the wife should NEVER say anything along the lines of, "I told you so."

    So these "comps" actually did recognize that the husband's final decision could possibly be harmful for the family and that he isn't the only one who will bear the responsibility for his error before arriving at the judgment throne. But not only does she have to let her husband make the final decisions anyway (if she wants to be following God's will), she is also supposed to suffer silently if/when the fallout hits. She can't point out his mistake.

    And like you said, since their doctrine "required his wife to lay down what she thought was best and accept her husband's decree as a law she must embrace--even against her will" it makes it appear like she was in full agreement with his final decision. Therefore, she CAN'T say, "I told you so," because she should have been fully supporting his final decision and not have a separate will or mind of her own.

    Earlier in my marriage, I lived this way. I tried to follow these "comp" teachers. I even refrained from saying, "I told you so," until my husband would comment on the negative effects of the decision and HE would say, "Well, you agreed with me." He was sharing the blame or responsibility with me. Then I felt like I had to speak up. "No, I didn't AGREE with you. I was SUBMITTING to you." There is a huge difference between the two. Some interesting conversations took place after that distinction came to light.

    In those conversions, I also felt like *maybe* he finally was better able to hear my opinions and thoughts regarding the previously made decision. Deep down, I felt like he had discredited or devalued my opinions when the decision was being made. But in following "comp" teachings, I felt like it would have been sinful for me to continue to argue my case instead of laying it down and letting him make the final decision. Thankfully, our marriage survived through that awful stage. It is SO MUCH better now that the golden rule is our guide instead of those so-called "comp" teachings.

  2. Its a wonder they don't see the narcissism in what they teach ya know?

  3. Hannah,
    I suspect they don't recognize narcissism except in females. Unless it is extreme, they consider male narcissism a normal part of husband authority, I gather. At least, if John Piper's "endure for a season," and the denial by others of the husband having done any wrong-doing, or at times others admit it is wrong-doing, but they justify it as needed to enforce his wife's submission.

  4. Anne,
    I take it if the wife is not allowed to say "I told you so," she also is not allowed to do anything that would hold him accountable. For example, if he is hurting her sexually, she should only tell him so once or twice and then if he doesn't stop hurting her, she should shut up and suffer in silence, all the while pretending to enjoy it, right? And if he does anything at all that causes her to grieve, like throwing away a precious gift she got from her parents/family, she is to act as though he is her dearest, most trustworthy friend, as if she is not bleeding inside. Likewise, when she hurts in any way at all because of his behavior/decision, grieving is not allowed. When she is not allowed a human friend to talk to, when she is denied the vitamins or doctoring she needs, when he dismisses that their child is being bullied in school and ends up broken hearted or even beaten. No, the husband is not to be held accountable for his actions; only the wife is held accountable for both his, hers, and her reaction to his.

    "Thankfully, our marriage survived through that awful stage. It is SO MUCH better now that the golden rule is our guide instead of those so-called "comp" teachings."

    Anne, I am so glad your husband was willing to allow the golden rule to be your guide instead of compism! I have heard any number of wives say they have to keep quiet after they have brought something up to their husbands once or twice. If they say any more about it, their husband will dig in his heels and will make sure they NEVER get what they asked for. However, keeping silent while they pray about it, still means they may have to wait for years for God to speak to their husband's heart, and for their husband to listen. They may have to live through extreme hardship and/or distress while God deals with their husband for not listening to his wife. And all this because the husband wants to teach his wife that she must submit to his authority.

  5. BTDT, Waneta, and it was a yoke which left me weary and heavy laden. When I turned to God and told Him so and asked Him "WHY am I so weary and heavy laden?" He showed me some Biblical role models of women who did not go along with their husband's decisions:
    ~Abigail in 1 Sam 25
    ~Sarah (the biblical role model for "submission"!) in Genesis 21:10-12 note how the mature Sarah (which is her GOD given name, meaning "leader") stands up to her husband regarding a manner which "greatly displeased" him!
    ~Mary made a life changing decision about her own life without consulting her betrothed or her father

    OTH, one of the few inside views of marriage in the NT is that of Ananias and Sapphira. Isn't the teaching you have presented teaching women to be "agreeable" with their husbands just like Sapphira was? It was a marriage paradigm that resulted in death then, and it's a marriage paradigm that remains deadly to marriages now.

  6. Waneta, I realize this is an old post, but I was surfing the net after a discussion with a friend. She has decided that it was best for her husband to have final authority because unless men have that, they get isolated and matriarchy will rule. Her argument is that women bear babies and have more emotional resources to make themselves connected, but if men are not given the avenues to feel connected and have a role (eg by having the authority), they get easily sidelined. What do you think of that position?

  7. Anonymous,
    "She has decided that it was best for her husband to have final authority because unless men have that, they get isolated and matriarchy will rule."

    How sad! The problem with her thinking is that it is "either-or" mentality. Either he rules or she rules. Why can't they both rule? Why can't they both submit?

    Frankly, having authority does NOT cause a man to be connected. Rather, it's the opposite. Authority over his wife tends to cause a husband to be self-connected, ie: selfish, not connected to his wife and children.

    Note also that she is using human reasoning. Why does she consider human reasoning as better than God's commands? God commands husbands to love their wives as they love their own bodies, to sacrifice for their wives, to treat their wives as the husbands would want to be treated, to submit to their wives. The only time in the whole Bible that husbands are commanded to rule or take authority over their wives is in Esther--and that was a command by a pagan king and his self-serving counselors, not a command of God.

    If she wants to use connectedness as a criteria, God says connectedness, fellowship, happens through mutual submission--submitting one to another. Now if her husband says he's not going to play if he can't have his way, is she going to excuse him from submitting to her and from loving her as he loves himself?

    So ask your friend who she is going to listen to: God or men? BTW, God doesn't mention anything about connectedness being the criteria. But He does mention the importance of avoiding sin. FRankly, the husband authority model takes many men directly into sin. so many believe they ought to have anything they want--including porn, which has become quite common among "Christian" men. According to the sermon on the mount, Jesus would likely call porn-viewing adultery. Jesus also said "by their fruit ye shall know them." When the fruit of the spirit is not evident, but selfishness and rulership are evident, we would be irresponsible if we did not question whether a man is showing evidence of godly fruit.

    This is very serious. Romans 8:8-9 "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Encouraging a husband to take authority over, encourages him toward sin, toward not having evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. A person who does not show the fruit of the Spirit--to his wife and children as well as in public--that will take him toward Spiritual death. If a man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Encouraging sin via the spirit of selfish rulership in husbands is one of the most hateful things a wife can do. By doing so, she is putting a huge stumbling block in front of her husband. Encouraging him to sin is NOT the way to get him connected!