Barbara Roberts rebuts “A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism”
The ‘Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism’ by Pastor D. Scott Meadows, of Calvary Baptist Church, Exeter, New Hampshire, has outraged me so much that I think it merits another to follow up on Jeff’s post yesterday.
Here is the comment I submitted to the post at Reformed Baptist Fellowship while our American readers were asleep. The Reformed Baptist Fellowship site moderates comments so nothing gets published immediately. When I looked at their post just now (9pm Melbourne time) it still had ZERO comments from women. And Wendell’s comment had not been published either, so I’m going to show you Wendell’s comment below mine. (He shared it with the ACFJ team by email yesterday.)
The comment that I submitted to A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism
I’m commenting because this post is outrageously bad. It is bad for multiple reasons. And some of the commenters seem to have as blinkered and bad a view as Ps Meadows does.
Why am I bothering to comment when you have not published all the other comments you have received from women? I KNOW you received them because many of our readers at A Cry For Justice have told us they commented here. I also know you have not published some comments from men who have been outraged by this article.
I am the co-leader of the blog A Cry For Justice, so I am Ps Jeff Crippen’s colleague. I am not an egalitarian. My theology is Reformed Baptist 1689 Confessional. So maybe, just maybe, you will listen to me and publish my comment.
Here are the things that are wrong with the post. This will be long. I will present my points roughly in the order of importance, with what I deem most important first.
If the Catechism were not meant to be used as advice for women who are being abused by their husbands, that should have been stated RIGHT UP FRONT before the Catechism began. The fact that this caveat was not given means that the Catechism will do harm to any woman in a destructive/abusive marriage who is exposed to this post or the thinking it embodies.
It is not good enough to just say in the comments thread that the post was not meant for abusive marriages. That kind of after-mention is one of the reasons we victims of abuse have been so marginalized and trapped in spiritual / scriptural / marital bondage for so long!
We exist, and we are intelligent. We read things. We scour books and the internet for things that will help our marriages! We are in the pews of churches and Bible study groups. We may not be overtly stating to anyone, even to ourselves, that we are victims of abuse. We may not even have realized that “abuse” is the term for what we are suffering! But we are all around you. One in four women have experience violence from an intimate partner at some time in their lives. And that’s only physical violence, not all the other kinds of spousal abuse. Not every one of these ‘one in four’ women have been subject to the ongoing pattern of coercive control which defines abuse, but many have. We should not be ignored or passed over, as Ps Meadows has done in the way he wrote this post.
FYI, our definition of abuse is a pattern of coercive control in which the abuser mistreats the victim (spouse, kids) using any one or combination of these tactics: emotional, verbal, sexual, physical (threats, stand-over tactics, assaults, property violence, or neglect of basic needs), financial, social, psychological abuse (gas-lighting) and the abuser always has a mindset of entitlement, a belief that what he (or less often, she) is doing is okay. That it’s not wrong. That it is justified.
Qns 4-7 expound that idea that if I am married I should love my husband with gracious gospel love, respect him for his position over me, and submit to him as unto the Lord.
A wife’s submission to her husband must be qualified and explained most carefully, or wives in destructive marriages (and pastors often don’t know who these wives are, because domestic abuse hides in plain sight) will think that they have to submit to all the subtle and not so subtle control and coercion tactics their husbands use against them.
What kind of ‘position over’ would you accord a hypocritical husband who is posing as believer but has actually been shredding his wife’s very soul over decades? Cutting her down. Bewildering her with Jekyll/Hyde tactics. Making her think it is all her fault. What kind of ‘position over’ would you accord a flagrantly unbelieving husband who abuses his wife and kids with the braggadocio of a coarse villain?
Abigail is one model to give to women who are married to Nabals. Abigail showed love for Nabal — by overruling his commands! And she didn’t tell him what she was doing until later when he’d sobered up.
“Submit to him as unto the Lord” is a phrase that needs to be most carefully explicated so that wives in destructive marriages will know what it looks like in their circumstances. There comes a time when many wives have to outright rebel against their husbands if they are to submit to the Lord. Any teaching aimed at women that fails to deal with this is making a grievous error. It is a failure of duty of care for the oppressed and the vulnerable in the Body of Christ.
The problem comes to a head in Answer 7: “That I will cheerfully acquiesce to my husband in all things consistent with the revealed will of Christ, but no further, from a sincere desire to please my husband and Christ for my husband’s good and Christ’s glory.”
FAIL! Because it does not recognize that there are times when it is IMPOSSIBLE to please a husband and Christ at the same time.
To please Christ, a woman may have to DIS-please her husband. Seriously displease him. He may become enraged or coldly silently angry to intimidate her into backing down. Or he may plot a nasty payback that will bite her unexpectedly where it most hurts. When such a man’s pleasure is threatened, he comes first and let God be d___ed. And he believes he must exert more control over his wife or else she will become even more upstanding for God and even less tolerant of his sinful ways. For a woman who is being exhorted to submit to her husband’s authority, this is a recipe for years of further misery for the victim.
But in the Pollyanna land that Ps Meadows lives in, this situation never arises. Wake up, Pastor Meadows! The unbalanced stuff you are preaching will be spiritually abusive to those in destructive marriages.
Am I exaggerating? No.
Am I misunderstanding the words of Ps Meadows? No. Here is my proof:
Q9. What is the primary means by which I can influence my husband toward greater faith and obedience to God?
A9. Setting a good example before my husband, without a word of nagging or disrespectful rebuke.
Ps Meadows clearly says that a wife must not ‘nag’ or disrespectfully rebuke her husband.
This makes is SUPER EASY for an abuser or a pastor to condemn the wife for how she rebuked her husband. All they have to say is “You did not show enough respect for your husband in the manner in which you rebuked him!” Catch 22! The woman cannot win. The cards are always stacked against her when she has to jump this high bar which is set as high as the male authorities want to set it, and they can make it higher whenever they choose. They can say she is nagging, or she is disrespectful — and the case is closed. She has no come back. She crawls back into her shell and who knows how many years or decades more of abuse she suffers from that anti-husband? We hear stories like this from survivors all the time, at our blog.
What, by the way, is ‘nagging’? Why are men seldom accused of nagging? Isn’t what people commonly call ‘nagging’ simply someone asking a person repeatedly to do what they should have done the first time they were asked, but they were too lazy or self-centered to bother doing it? And why, then, are women most often accused of ‘nagging’? Hmm. Maybe men are most often the lazy ones? Oops. I’d better be careful or I’ll be labelled a feminist. 😦
And Q and A 10 do not ameliorate the case.
Q10. Does this absolutely forbid addressing my husband about his responsibility for faith and duty as a man, a husband, and a father?
A10. No, but when it is right to address him about these things, I must speak the truth in love, with evident love and respect for him as my husband.
The wife can all too easily be faulted for not showing ‘evident love and respect for her husband’ in the way she addressed him. And even if the pastor is inclined at first to stand with the wife, all it takes is for a lying, cunning, manipulative abuser to get in the ear of the pastor, either himself directly or via his allies and accomplices, and the pastor will be swayed to not fully support the wife. And anything less than FULL support of the victim — any pastoral stance of ‘neutrality’ or ‘it takes two to tango’ — will abysmally fail to give godly justice to the victim.
Answers 11 and 12 are highly presumptuous. Is Meadows clairvoyant? How else can he know how bad a wife a woman is in her marriage? How can he know how good a husband that woman’s husband is? This is pride and presumption of the highest order. Furthermore, by telling wives that they should remind themselves every day how bad they are and how much they need to improve as wives, Meadows plays right into the game-plan of every abusive husband who masterfully manipulates his wife to think she is to blame for all the troubles in the marriage.
Q & A 13 insinuate that suffering of a wife in her marriage is like the suffering of martyrs who are persecuted for professing their faith. That is a serious category error. Domestic abuse is not conducted simply because the abuser wants to stamp out the gospel witness of the victim, it is perpetrated simply because the abuser believes he is entitled to treat his wife that way. Period.
There may be an overlap between persecution for the gospel and persecution just because the abuser is a plain ordinary spouse abuser anyway. The abuser may escalate his abuse at times in reaction to his wife’s strong witness for the gospel, and in many cases we hear of, the abuser makes a great scene on a Sunday just before or after a church service. But a partial overlap does not imply complete congruency. It’s important to make this clear, or a wife being abused will think that she has to remain and suffer in her marriage because Christ suffered on the Cross, and her marriage is her cross to bear which she cannot abandon without forsaking Christ.
Q 1. The main point of marriage. To say it is to glorify God and enjoy him forever is really too broad; it’s a motherhood statement if ever there was one. One could also assert that the main point of a job, a career, playing sport, drinking coffee, brushing one’s teeth, caring for one’s elderly parents, or whatever, is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It becomes rather silly, does it not?
The Bible makes clear in Genesis what the main point of marriage is:—
companionship, mutual support and love (not good for man to be alone; ‘ezer’ helper, i.e. strong helper, suitable-opposite for him);
and procreation (go forth and multiply).
The prevention of sin by maintaining sexual chastity within the confines of marriage is the third main point of marriage, to which the time-honored marriage vows from the old Anglican marriage service testify. Of course, it was not necessary for God to state the prevention of sin as a point of marriage in Genesis 2, where there were only two created human beings on the earth, so no risk of fornication! And the Fall had not yet occurred.
Q 2 Meadows has set up a false dichotomy by positing a distinction between ‘source’ of happiness and ‘occasion’ of happiness. The Bible does not make such a dichotomy.
Be assured I will be publishing my comment on A Cry For Justice whether or not you publish it here.
BTW, I also submitted this exact same comment to Confessing Baptist where someone called Jason had recommended Ps Meadows’ Catechism for Christian Wives. The Confessing Baptist site publishes comments without moderation, so my comment went live. But they may take my comment down if they are the same stripe as the men who run at Reformed Baptist Fellowship. I took a screen shot of the beginning of it.
Wendell’s comment that Reformed Baptist Fellowship did not publish
Questions 11 and 12 boggle my mind. How does this pastor know how good a husband the man is or how good a wife the woman is? He is taking a huge leap here! Please try telling the woman who is beaten viciously every day or destroyed emotionally on a regular basis through his words that she is getting better than she deserves! This is nothing more than cruelty masked in spiritual language!
Tell me, what covenant is there when one side blatantly and repeatedly breaks that same covenant? Did the husband not also freely enter into the same covenant? Yet the entire burden is put on to the wife.
If the husband was not a Christian in the first place, did he even have the ability to enter into a Scriptural covenant? If you are going to use the covenant theology on one side, you must use it on the other side as God never entered into covenant relationship with any people or nation who were not His, unless they were willing to forsake their former life and allegiances to become a part of His people. An abusing husband cannot be part of God’s family and thus is outside the covenant relationship with God and is not capable of making such a covenant with his wife. Even if there is a valid covenant, he has violated it through his abuse and some remedy or escape must be provided the wife as the aggrieved party.
* * *
What can we collectively do about this outrageous Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism That Enables And Prolongs Domestic Abuse?
I am not a Twitter user, and I don’t think many of our team are. But Twitter is powerful. I probably need to start using it. If any of you tweet, maybe you could start a tweet called #TakeDownThatCatechism! There was a great victory recently when survivors of child sexual abuse and their advocates launched a twitter campaign called #TakeDownThatPost, calling on The Christian Post to take down a horrible article they had published by — yes — yech — a man convicted of child sexual abuse who had been a youth pastor and had abused one of the young women in his youth group. Read all about it at Spiritual Sounding Board. The victory on that case shows that social media is powerful. Collectively we can put pressure on these people who have been publishing terrible, abuser-friendly things, and get them to Take Them Down and, yes, even Apologize. I know. It’s amazing.
So if any of you want to start such a twitter campaign, feel free! The rest of us might even become tweeters ourselves, if we can get over the techno-phobias and other obstacles . . .
Let us know what you are doing in social media to put pressure on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship site. And if you submit comments over at their site, please submit the comments here too, so people can read what you say even if RBF don’t publish it.
I’ve started the ball rolling by putting a comment on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship’s Facebook page where they posted a link to the Catechism article. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=769107329777990&id=331240613564666
Here is a screen shot of my comment: