In Gen. 1 God said, Let us make mankind in our image. To be made in the likeness of God is to be made in relationship where, just as the son submits to the father, we have a couple, a head and a helper.
Wives, submit to the husband as the head – he is in charge. God solved the argument before it started, he said, I have to choose someone, okay, husbands, you are in charge. I hold you responsible.
Now what does it look like? If you are married to a good husband, who … you will find a very happy wife, … if however, you are a wife who is married to a lousy husband, just line up over here and we can discuss this in a therapy group afterward. [laughingly] Its not easy.
I want to point out something that is very important. In our culture we decide that if something doesn’t work we change it. But God designed humanity. God designed the world and gave it order. We submit to all authorities because God has put them there. Never in the Bible do you see God saying plan B is if it is not working, swap. You never hear, wives command your husbands, and husbands submit.
This minister also made it clear that he abhorred violence, and said that domestic abuse was horribly wrong. So how does this encourage abuse?
First, no actual therapy was offered. This was a joke. The abused wife is the butt of jokes, because the minister seems to think “who in this day and age would remain in a relationship where they are raped and beaten?” The facts are that one in ten women suffer significant violence in marriage, although many say one in four. But I prefer the lower number. This is regardless of religious affiliation in the western countries.
So, in this church, with about a thousand members, there will be plenty of abused wives, and perhaps some abused husbands also. I don’t doubt that.
But there were no actual resources or offers of help. The minister’s wife didn’t think that there were any cases of abuse in that church. This shows an enormous lack of training on the part of the clergy. Here are the problems.
1) Sometimes clergy laugh when they mention the abuse of wives. After all, John Piper also laughs about this topic. Its a human reaction.
2) Clergy don’t offer help because they don’t want to admit that the problem exists.
3) Clergy imply that you can’t get a divorce unless the husband hits really hard. But that time, the husband has exerted control, not allowing the wife permission to have private conversations. A combination of lack of opportunity, lack of funds, shame and misery will keep a woman from telling the whole story.
4) Some preachers, like Bruce Ware, who taught our clergy, make the claim that men are abusive when the wife is rebellious. This makes the wife feel that she can change the situation by being more submissive. The facts are otherwise. When the wife submits, the husband gets want he wants. He is gratified. The next time he wants something, he expects to be gratified. His desire to get his own way is reinforced. If it worked one time, it will work again, so his demands escalate. He knows it is wrong, but he is an addict just as any other addict.
An example of ridiculous demands, is when a woman told John Piper that her husband expected her to ask permission every time she went from one room to another, even the bathroom.
5) Clergy can’t actually imagine what it would mean to be raped or smacked around in front of your little children. Or limited in bathroom rights, or not allowed to take a deep breath, because it sounds like a disrespectful sigh.
6) People think that women who endure this are weak and deserve what they get. But many women endure this, and only a few, about 30% actually are able to leave. Some just go direct from abuse to senility, as the mother of a friend of mine recently did. And after a life of being smacked around, she died. The strong ones leave, but not because any sermon told them to. Perhaps the police or a non-Christian neighbour may help.
I have never been told by a minister whether a wife can vote for whoever she wants, or enter and leave her house without permission, or seek wage employment without permission. This is the law, but how many women are told in church that they can’t work outside the home unless the husband gives them permission? Quite a few.
Some blogs I have read say that the husband can decide how many pregnancies the wife has to endure. He can decide where to send the children to school and he can override the husband in making decisions about medical treatment for the children.
Also can a wife go back to university without the permission of her husband?
All these areas seem to be confused. Can the husband deprive the wife of any legal right that an adult has. And since I was in the same congregation as Sidney clergy and other famous complementarians for 15 years, why is it that I am so confused about all these rights? Why did I not experience what it means to be an adult human being until I left the complementarian church altogether, and completely.
I am writing here, because some of the cases I mention happened under the naive and God-loving ministry of men trained in this diocese.
These men never listen...just like Peter Jensen failed to listen on Q & A...
BRONWYN FRASER: Hi. I work with Christian cultures - women in Christian cultures overseas who do have this biblical wife submission approach to marriage and they also report some of the highest levels of domestic violence and sexually-based violence. Up to 60% of the women have experienced this. Could it be that this sort of inequality in marriage can lead to domestic and sexually-based violence and, as a Christian, how does this actually represent what Jesus stood for?