The unfolding American drama manifests in the slow erosion of the nuclear family; there are few voices willing to tackle the issues head on. We only speak our own truths to others who share them, and even then only after a quick look around, a wink, and a lowering of our voices. We got circular in our thinking. We got circular in our fears.
Once upon a time men feared beasts, other men, armies, guns, bad guys, and the like. Women harbored the same fears. Mostly both genders could address their fears the same way. Men got tough. Little space remained for men who didn’t get tough, or at least join a collective that together was a tough bunch. It was defense and sustenance. Women were safer when the collective grunt went about watching for harmful things, and bringing other things bountiful.
Fast-forward… really fast, because there would be books on books to chronicle the transition in any detail. Ignore causation, as there is huge disparity of opinion. Did men get lazy? Did men seek woman’s role? Did women demand that men negotiate with tears on their face instead of tears in their uniforms? Who cares?
Well the Christian church is supposed to care. The church has the Bible and the Bible has something to say about everything. There are things unessential in uniformity like worship formats and whether to use a crushed velvet blanket over a woman’s legs when she is slain in the spirit. There are things essential like Jesus as Savior and the path to salvation. Roles of priests and elders are described and qualifications outlined. But wait; already we arrive at contested ground.
What about women? The church certainly does not have uniformity of belief and practice on women’s role in ministry. The machinations of reason and rationalization on both sides could use a quantum physicist to unravel them. To follow these debates takes one on a path that resembles a pretzel in three dimensions. I leave it alone.
What about husbands and wives? Here is where it gets really interesting. We all like conditional things; if then situations. We use the scales of justice to measure things that were not intended to have a counterweight. Little Jimmy broke the window in the front door with a baseball, but Bobby burned the kitchen while making popcorn. I guess the broken window is ok. Jimmy should thank Bobby. We like it this way. That’s why we cannot accept the roles of husbands and wives in the Bible as prescribed independently. The issue is between the individual and God. There should be no situation where Fred’s affair overshadows Betty’s neglect. It cuts both ways. It’s all bad.
Two occasions arise with opportunity for preachers to address gender roles. Most churches have a series of topical messages, and often they address man and women’s role in marriage, dedicating separate days to each gender. The other times are Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Summarizing these is easy. Man is stupid and bad, he is not present in his children’s lives, he is a workaholic, and he is emotionally inept. In fact more sensitivity on his part would solve many problems. Woman is under appreciated; she is to be respected and protected, and indulged the relentless desire to emote. Men complaining about a lack of intimacy need only see that they are not sensitive to the delicate nuances of the day, and if he could relate more like a girlfriend to her, she would be the wife he wants. It’s in there. Did you catch it, the if-then? We love it. Someone is guiltier. We are allowed to judge. Judging is fun.
I wouldn’t dare open the Pandora’s box of the concept of submission. Watch a pastor speak on it and you will soon see that a pretzel in three dimensions is simple. He delves into the fourth dimension where Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Schrodinger’s Cat and Laplace’s Demon reside. I asked a pastor once why he danced like that. He told me it was because his wife was sitting close by.
I said earlier causation is not my thing. I can see an analogy though. Pornography exploits women and feeds man’s desire to view unclothed flesh, yes? Physical intimacy is a strong drive in men, maybe the strongest need men have. Alternatively intimate communication, sensitivity, and romance are purported to be powerful needs of women. A fast couple of clicks online and a man can be looking at a virtual world that speaks directly to that powerful drive. Men are often caught in its simplicity of access and change their focus to virtual. Their marriage is harmed, and they are rightly scorned.
But what of Harlequin? Aside from the fact that romance novels can have titillating intimate scenes written for female consumption, even the “innocent” books provide a compelling vicarious remedy for the daily frustration of not “getting it” at home, it being the frequency and form of communication sought. Is this OK? Well I would say not, but I might get a snicker and little else if I attempted to put the porn of romance novels on the radar screen of family problems that church could address…and that we can (he he he) judge!
Regardless your perspective on Biblical marriage roles, the only absolute claim I can make is that the prescription, if you accept it, is not conditional. That does not go down well. But I believe if the prescription was adopted from that viewpoint by more people, cause and effect, or if then would manifest, not in failures, but in successes in marriage.
The INS reports a 19% divorce rate between American men and women from certain parts of the world where Biblical marriage roles result from culture and not religion. Most are not even Christian nations.
The difference between 19% and our domestic bliss of 51% can be closed a bit. Sure there are “factors” where desperate subservient women come here and tolerate dominant husbands and all sorts of bad things just to become Americans. You cannot close the gap enough though with these “factors” to discount the impact of appropriate marital roles regardless why they are adopted. I submit the Bible has it right.
As an aside, these men look at less porn and these women read less Harlequin. Why?