How complementarianism can magnify the entitlement mentality of men, making them worse
This is a case study of how the promotion of Male Headship can exacerbate a not-so-good man’s attitude of entitlement, making him even worse in his marriage than he might otherwise have been. It also touches on the foolishness and harm that can be done in a botched deliverance ministry.
The proponents of complementarianism claim that the teaching of male headship leads to men treating their wives with greater respect, more lovingly, as Christ loved the church, yada yada; and that this teaching is essential in saving the culture from its headlong rush into paganism and depravity.
Matthew Paul Turner’s interview with ‘Amy’ (not her real name) was published in June 2012. Titled Exorcism at Mars Hill: One Woman’s story of sex, demons and Mark Driscoll, the interview covers a lot of ground. I’m reproducing here (with Matthew’s permission) the parts of the interview that illustrate how emphasizing the doctrine of male headship can lead to men treating their wives with less respect, rather than more respect: how it blows up the bubble of male entitlement and inures selfish men from seeing their faults, let alone confessing and repenting of them.
When Matthew asks Amy a question, it is shown in purple. Bolding has been added by me at points where I think the story illustrates my thesis most clearly.
Mark [Driscoll]’s sermons played a pretty major factor in the breakdown of their marriage. Amy says that Mark’s preaching, both stylistically and thematically, changed significantly during her time there. Mark began sermonizing more and more about the roles of men and women in the home, using his words to empower men to rule over their households, and encouraging women to remain quiet, submissive, and above all, serve their husbands.
“My husband was always pretty stubborn,” says Amy, “but Mark’s preaching made that part of his personality worse. He most definitely felt empowered by Mark to rule over me. I experienced that more and more the longer we were married. The church encouraged it. And my resentment toward that grew over the years.”
Amy says that she and her husband felt a great deal of pressure to be that couple that Mark preached about. Much of that pressure came after they began going to Mars Hill’s marriage counseling.
“About a year after we joined Mars Hill, we began meeting with elders and sometimes deacons about our marriage problems. Usually that involved dinner with a member of church leadership and then after eating, we moved into the living room for ‘the talk’.”
During those talks Amy often felt invisible. “Mostly because I was the wife,” she says, “a woman, the ‘weaker vessel.’ Because I was a woman, my opinions and complaints fell on deaf ears. But my husband’s opinions and complaints, however, were always heard. Any complaint he’d make, I was told that I needed to repent. Often I’d leave those sessions feeling depressed and angry, feeling like a child because I’d been reprimanded for not being an obedient wife.”
Mark also counseled the couple. During one of those sessions, Amy remembers Mark saying, “Hey guys, tough shit. It’s too late now. You made a choice to get married. Get it together.” That “tough it out” sentiment, Amy says, was often the advice they received from many members of church leadership, not just Mark.
“Once, when I shared with Mark that I felt neglected in my marriage, he told that I was being a nagging wife and that I needed to suck it up. That was something Mark preached about a lot — the nagging wife.”
Not living up to Mars Hill’s marital standards had emotional consequences, at least for Amy. “I felt a lot of guilt and fear, fear of disappointing the leadership or failing our other married friends. Sometimes I’d go through long periods of deep depression.”
One of the bigger obstacles to their marriage working, at least within the confines of Mars Hill’s standards, was Amy and her inability to become like the other wives at Mars Hill. “The longer I was there, the more I realized that I didn’t share the same ideals as those leading the church. I didn’t fit into their ‘wife mold’.”
What was it about your personality that didn’t fit Mars Hill’s so-called “wife mold”?
I spoke up too much. I wasn’t, according to them, “obedient”. I had opinions. Listen, I tried all the time to fit into that mold — you have no idea — but it wasn’t me. I couldn’t do it and I didn’t. I couldn’t just put my head down and remain silent. I was called “fiery” and “feisty” all the time, and I’ll admit, I am fiery and feisty. But that’s just me, a hot blooded Italian, I guess.
But I’m sure you weren’t the only married woman at Mars Hill who spoke up?
I was the only woman I knew who spoke up. All of the wives I knew followed along. They didn’t dare speak out. But that wasn’t me. I’ve always had a little dark streak–not a “mean spirited” streak–I’ve just always had a darker sense of humor. I like a little shock value here and there. I have tattoos and dark features. I’m also a fairly accomplished artist (she’s a painter of abstract and modern types of work on canvas. And today, she’s internationally known) and have always had a tendency to be more free-thinking.
And that was considered wrong?
Yes. I was often made to feel that, because I am different, I was living in sin and not conforming, that I wasn’t being obedient in my role as a wife. Over and over again, I was told that I was the problem, that I needed to submit, and “get my shit together”.
Amy and her husband’s marital unhappiness went on for years (the couple was married for eight-and-a-half years). At the time, leaving Mars Hill wasn’t an option. Her husband wouldn’t give it a second thought. And Amy’s unhappiness grew.
“I felt trapped,” says Amy, “And the guilt from our circle of friends at Mars Hill was unreal, sometimes oppressive.”
Amy says that she and her husband discussed the possibility of leaving each other on several occasions throughout the years.
“We hashed over getting a divorce for years,” Amy says, “but then the fear, guilt, and pressure would take over and we’d end up staying together.”
On one occasion in 2001, during a time when Amy struggled to become pregnant, she confesses that she’d almost conjured up the courage to ask her husband for a divorce. “I knew it would be better to do it before I got pregnant.”
But then, out of the blue, Amy found out that she was already two months pregnant.
“I’ll never forget what my husband said when I told him. He was standing in the bathroom doorway. I said, ‘I’m pregnant’. He hung his head and said, ‘Well, I guess we better try and make it work.’”
Just about twelve months later, Amy became pregnant again.
Amy adores being a mother, but she also admits that those first years of motherhood were some of the most difficult days of her life.
“I was knee-deep in diapers for 3-4 years at home alone. I totally lost my identity and grew even more depressed. I lost myself and felt, not only stifled, but undeniably trapped in my circumstances and surroundings. It was my only reality and I literally feared I couldn’t survive much longer because mentally I was downtrodden and unheard, it was unbearable and I knew I couldn’t go anymore. I felt like such a chronic failure compared to the ‘wives’ [at Mars Hill] and what Mark would preach I was supposed to do or be. I just couldn’t hit the marks he taught. And honestly, I started to see that I didn’t even want to.”
On numerous occasions, throughout their rocky marriage, Amy’s husband would confide to Mark about what was happening at home. On many of those occasions, Mark would summon them to his office for a talk. Amy admits that, toward the end, at a time when she describes her marriage as “in absolute shreds,” the whole “getting dragged into Mark’s office” routine was getting old. It happened so often that Amy began referring to Mark’s office as the principal’s office. “I felt like a ‘problem child’,” she says.
But Amy was wrong. She wasn’t a “problem child”, at least, not according to Mark Driscoll.
Amy learned what Mark really thought about her during one of those visits to the “principal’s office”.
This meeting took place in a private room at Mars Hill’s Earl Building**. It was only the three of them: Amy, her husband, and Mark. Amy was sitting beside her husband on a leather couch. They were facing Mark.
“Mark started the meeting by telling us he was convinced that I had demons,” says Amy, “and then he went on to add that my demons were ‘sexual demons’.”
Amy describes Mark’s demeanor toward her as a “fiery tirade”. During this encounter, Mark told Amy he believed that every one of her sins were “sex based.” He said that the demons inside her were out to destroy every one of the marriages in their circle of friends.
“At one point,” says Amy, “he asked me which one of my husband’s friends I had imagined sleeping with.”
Amy was dumbfounded by Mark’s questions and accusations. But she also admits, because she no longer trusted Mark, she was also slightly terrified of what was about to happen.
“A part of me didn’t give a damn what Mark was saying or what he proclaimed as ‘truth,’” says Amy, “because by that time I was already one foot out the door and I wasn’t buying what Mark was selling. But then there was a part of me that was also pretty spooked.”
Mark then announced that he would be performing an exorcism. Amy says that was the word he used.
“Mark began the exorcism by praying a prayer of protection against Satan and anything else that was not of God. And he asked for a ‘shield’ to cover us.”
Right before he started the exorcism, Mark told Amy that he would be asking the demons very specific pointed questions. “He told me that it would feel like a normal conversation.”
Mark stared hard at Amy and began yelling questions at her “sex demons”. His fierce glare seemed to look past her as he screamed his questions at her face. He asked the demons what their names were. He asked them about sex. He asked them about Amy’s past sexual sins. He asked them about Amy’s current lustful thoughts. He asked them if they were planning to destroy marriages in his church. And then he asked whose marriages were they planning to destroy and how.
And then, according to Amy, Mark cast the demons out.
So, was Mark right? Did it feel like a normal conversation?
No. Not at all.
Why do you think Mark claimed that your “demons” were “sexual”?
It’s always his go-to topic. Ironically, my husband had more “demons” than one could imagine. But his demons were of no consequence and unimportant to the church. It was somehow my fault because “maybe I wasn’t the godly, providing wife” I was supposed to be.
That said, Mark was also aware that my husband and I had sexual troubles from day one. And regarding our sex life — because I was essentially grinning and bearing it most of the time — Mark concluded that I was a terrible wife to my husband. Even when my husband looked at porn, Mark blamed me because I wasn’t doing my “wifely duty”. I felt violated when sex was expected of me. I was intensely miserable and neglected throughout my marriage, but Mark deemed that irrelevant because I was the wife and my duty was to serve my husband sexually.
Of course, I had my own “sin” just like anyone else and I was open about it. I was frank and transparent about it. But my sin had nothing to do with sex and did not have anything to do with why I didn’t want to stay in my situation. Mark didn’t have a clue about what was in my head or in my heart.
Do you think Mark just made that part up?
I think Mark obsesses about sex. I know that many have debated whether or not Mark has an underlying issue related to sex and lust. I think that debate is valid because it is absolutely one of his core focuses. In my opinion, Mark projected his issues onto me when he told me that I had sex demons. I think he has a problem. Even when I called Mark my friend, I always found it odd how he would force sexual topics into sermons and into all of our counseling sessions.
How did your husband respond to the “exorcism”?
He was sold — hook, line and sinker. I think he felt exonerated. It was like his sins had been wiped clean because Mark Driscoll said that his wife was just chock full of demons.
How did you feel afterward?
I just wanted to hightail it out of that room as fast as I could. I was emotionally drained. I felt like I’d experienced psychological torture. I felt like an experiment.
**UPDATE — According to Mars Hill, Mark performed a “Spiritual Warfare Trial” (a definition and instructions for a Spiritual Warfare Trial can be found here, toward the bottom of the page [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.]). They also deny using the word “exorcism”.**
A few weeks after that experience in 2005, Amy told her husband she wanted a divorce. This led to Mark Driscoll telling her she was no longer welcome at the church and she was shunned by the church, including by the woman who had been her best friend. Her husband remarried nine months later and in 2012 was still a member at Mars Hill. The interview ends with this:
What are your thoughts regarding God now? Do you still consider yourself to be a Christian?
I consider myself agnostic, I suppose. I don’t think about it too often. I definitely do not consider myself a Christian/believer. And, in fact, I’m not certain whether I truly ever did. My experience with Jesus was, in my mind, really not even a true one. It was born out of guilt and forcing myself to fit into the Christian mold that, for many years, I tried desperately to fit into. I had no other life outside of the church life and no other options or escape so I felt compelled to cling onto it as long as I could. I had a hard time fitting in that pretty little Mars Hill box and I had a hard time swallowing the pill of Christianity.
[end of excerpts from Matthew’s post]
We must conclude from this that Amy was very likely not a regenerate Christian when she was supposedly ‘exorcised’ by Mark Driscoll. And yet Driscoll teaches [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.] that before performing a ‘spiritual warfare trial’, one needs to be certain that the person who is being subjected to the trial is a Christian. Screen shot from the link just given:
A slight matter of failed duty of care, perhaps? (understatement)
But of course, we should not expect that someone like Mark Driscoll, who has such a bad record as a sex-obsessed preacher, a plagiarist, a man who unethically promoted his books, and a bully, would be able to sensibly discern whether someone is a Christian.
And we have to ask ourselves: How many other teachers of complementarianism & male headship are not actually born-again Christians? And we could also ask ourselves: How many people in churches of whatever stripe are not actually born-again Christians?
Regenerate Christians may not always be able to discern whether someone is a genuine Christian or not, for a number of reasons, including the fact that
The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (1 Tim. 5:24)
But when a person is not regenerate yet thinks he is, he is much less likely to be able to discern believers from unbelievers, since he does not have the Spirit of Christ himself.
. . . they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit. (Matt. 15:14)
But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts (Mal. 2:8)
His watchmen are blind;
they are all without knowledge;
they are all silent dogs;
they cannot bark,
dreaming, lying down,
loving to slumber. (Is. 56:10)
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Here is two more examples that supports my thesis.
The first example may be simply a person trolling to get a reaction; but even as trolling, it has to rank as one of the most highly entitled abuser language I have ever seen on the web. It was a comment made on the Christian Husband’s Marriage Catechism over at the Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog. (link) And it is noteworthy that not one of the catechism-defenders on that thread denounced it or made any remark about it.
During this time [the years I spent at Mars Hill] I made some huge mistakes. I pressured my brilliant and hard-working wife to give up her dream of law school and have a baby and be a stay-at-home mom as soon as possible. There’s nothing wrong with kiddos (I love my daughter) and staying home with kids is great if you want to. What isn’t great is that I allowed others to take verses from the Bible out of context and put a law on my wife and rob her of a dream. I only added pressure on her. It was wrong, and I’m terribly sorry. . . .
I want to apologize to women everywhere for being part of a culture that didn’t value you as equal to men.
Third example —
this comment from Lindsay on one of Jeff’s posts about Voddie Baucham, the hyper-patriarch, and his Permanence View of marriage:
I listened to Voddie Baucham’s sermon online not long ago, it was painful, but more painful than the sermon were the accolades in the comments below, one of which was from my very own ex husband! He commented that he was very relieved to know that he was right about my sin of divorcing him, that it was as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders to know what God wanted, and he thanked Baucham for speaking the truth so succinctly. Ugh.
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Readers, do you have other examples of how the teaching of male headship made a male abuser worse? Or brought out abuse in a man who had not shown signs of it before?