I would like make some additional observations on the topic of Modern Marriage Concerns by taking up a statement I made in the closing paragraphs of a previous post on this subject.
“I for one do not want to go back to gender hierarchy but I can readily understand it if my complementarian friends are quick to say that this ‘individualism’ is where egalitarianism takes us and is the very reason why they are so against it. Egalitarianism is not meant to manifest itself in rampant individualism. In fact it is meant to do the opposite, that is to work against individualism, especially as it relates to a male privileged environment. It would be a tragedy if the empowering of women led to the neglect of the men in their lives.”
While I may not want to go back to hierarchy myself that is precisely where young married couples, who are intent on pleasing God in their marriages, are inclined to go. There are a significant number of well-respected Bible teachers who advocate for male headship in marriage and male only leadership in churches. There are a plethora of books available on this subject declaring that a woman’s role, in both the church and the home is to be submissive to male leadership. Add to that the amount of material that is so readily available online and you have an incredible mix of possibilities that are tantalising to struggling marriage partners.
We have experienced that for couples where a tested theology of Biblical equality is lacking, combined with the woman having been liberated in her workplace, and where this liberty may have manifested in independent living, expressed in life choices that are no longer inclusive, there is a very real danger of the relationship being attracted to hierarchy.
You may question how such a huge turn around in life experience could occur. If the couple had simply inculcated into their life and marriage the freedoms of equality and individualism, experienced in secular life, without being exposed to the depth of theology justifying egalitarianism they could quite easily fall prey to a teaching that encourages them that in order to truly follow God the husband must take the initiative by leading and the woman must submit to his leadership. This couple may well be convinced that their way of relating to one another previously has been a “worldly” way of doing marriage and now they want to do it God’s way. We have witnessed for ourselves many gifted women joyfully surrendering their obvious giftedness in order to, in their words, “… more fully honour God and be true to his Word (The Bible).”
Because this couple may not have personally journeyed through mutual submission and experienced the interdependence of working out their domestic issues inclusively they may be attracted to the very opposite. It might be considered more easy for them to agree to empower the husband to take up this newly perceived, ‘God given role,’ to be the initiator and leader. We have seen strong women beg their men to ‘man up’ and take the lead, even though they are being fiercely independent in the process. In a sense they are throwing down the gauntlet and daring, a previously accommodating partner, to put them in their ‘place’ and take charge. Often such women are attracted to the ‘roles’ they now see as essential to stability and harmony within marriage and family life. There is an expectation that the husband display a more overt spirituality, like taking charge of family devotions and all family based decision-making.
I see this trend as a tragic step backwards but the younger couples I know who are presently flirting with this return to hierarchy are often quite disparaging of others who do not approach their marriages in the same way. I am still waiting for some of these young couples to experience more of married life and discover for themselves the virtues of a mutually submissive relationship that is thoroughly grounded on a sound theological understanding of God’s Word. Sadly, more often than not, many of these marriages have failed before reaching this more desirable outcome which means that the couples give up on their marriage altogether and go their separate ways.
I’m wondering if there are others of you out there for whom what I’m sharing here makes a lot of sense. Perhaps some of your church friends, or even family members, are grappling with these very issues.