Friday, April 22, 2005

Issues in Christian Marriages

Posted by Hannah at 7:40 PM

Issues in the Christian Marriage Excerpted from Dr. Margaret Rinck's Christian Men Who Hate Women

Chapter 4:  

Issues in the Christian Marriage Unique Manifestations of Misogyny in Christian Relationships

There are some unique expressions (of misogyny) within Christian homes, that result from distortions of Christian faith and theology. These distortions play into the already sick relationship, in many cases exacerbating it.

Using the Bible as a Weapon

Christian misogynists (CMs) use the Bible as their main tool to control those around them.  The evangelical faith does stress the importance of scripture; yet these men use it as a weapon to control and manipulate others. By quoting the Bible and referring to its authority, CMs have a seemingly foolproof weapon in their campaign to control their wives. Christian women also view scripture as their standard of behavior; so when their husbands use it to point out their failures, they are quick to succumb and condemn themselves. They end up feeling constantly condemned by their spouses, by scripture and by God.It never occurs to them to question their husbands' interpretation of scripture or to decide for themselves whether it is being used appropriately.

As we all know, scripture can and has been used to justify everything from slavery to the Holocaust.In the hands of a CM, we see a more subtle, but nonetheless serious distortion.

No Christian wants to be "out of God's will" or do something "Jesus wouldn't do;" so compliant, dutiful wives fall into line when CMs use these phrases whether or not it makes sense, feels right or seems healthy.
Another common way CMs manipulate their wives is to grow very solemn and serious, take out their bible...and proceed to tell them what "God or the Holy Spirit has led me to do..." Christian wives are drawn easily into such spiritual manipulation.

Misuse of Biblical Authority/Roles

...the evangelical Christian respects authority. All authority figures are seen as receiving their position from God...The husband is seen as the "head of the home" (though scripture never uses that phrase; it describes men as "head" of their wives, not the home.) He has final authority, and what he says goes! Without debating the merits of this theological doctrine, suffice it to say that it is often abused. Many men use this notion of their sanctioned "authority" to commit atrocities against women. For the most part, women have been taught to acquiesce to authority; and when the weight of the church's or God's sanction is added, they do not receive permission to question or offer opposition. Some Christian teachers advocate these ideas to an extreme. At a national seminar I attended, one well-known bible teacher said that even if a woman's husband beat her she would be better off to "obey God" submit to the beatings and even die, rather than to leave him and seek relief.

Underlying Root Problem

Using the bible as a weapon, especially the concept of "God's will" to manipulate and misusing the concept of biblical authority are symptoms of deeper problems within the Christian community.

The Code of Silence

The first issue is denial. The concept of wife abuse is an anathema to most Christians. The idea of anyone hating someone else, much less men hating women, is difficult for most Christians to conceive. The facade of Christian "niceness" maintained by an abuser at church and in the community confuses his spouse. Besides, he is even nice at home--sometimes! He'll lead the family in prayer one minute; the next he's beating someone black and blue. Or he'll come home raging and shouting earlier in the day and beg forgiveness, swearing that he has had a "new experience with the Lord"...Or he may come home and act as if the tirade or beating never happened.

Shame is another reason why denial has such a tight grip on the Christian church. Instead of being a place where people feel safe to expose their painful problems, the church is often a "holier than thou" social club where everyone tries to appear more sanctified than everyone else. If a person can't appear more holy, one certainly doesn't want appear less holy; so women who are hurting from misogynistic relationships find it almost impossible to summon up the courage to tell anyone...

One problem frequently faced by wives in misogynistic relationships is that when they do tell someone in the church, they are either discounted or not believed. The misogynist looks so good--how could he be doing these things!

The following statements are typical responses that these wives often receive from pastors, pastoral counselors, elders, and even other women:

"You're just tired. Get a good night's sleep and things will look better tomorrow."

"Sounds like you need to be a better wife so that he'll be a better husband. You aren't trying enough to please him."

"You wouldn't upset him so much if you'd just be submissive."

"You're not being a good wife. If you were, he wouldn't act like this."

"You haven't been praying hard enough for him."

"All you have to do is trust God. He knows what's best. It'll work out. Don't forget Romans 8:28."

"You shouldn't talk that way about your husband. He's a fine Christian man, a leader at our church! Why are you trying to get attention this way?"

"Are you giving him enough sex? Maybe if you were more interested in sex, he'd stop being so upset.All most men need is a warm dinner and a warm wife in bed."

Silence is not golden when it covers up any type of abuse. However, silence and denial are apt to be the norm until the church becomes a safe place for people to be real.

Sexism in the Church

Like it or not there is sexism in the church. Many conservative Christians dismiss the idea of sexism as non-Christian, silly, feminist, or irrelevant. They regard themselves as doing things "God's way" and do not see any need to consider whether prejudice has also crept into the pew. Those sensitive to the realities of sexism in our culture realize that it permeates all our institutions, just like any other sinful behavior. Yet even in churches where such sensitivity exists outwardly, sexism is often lurking underground.

The Submission Syndrome: Out of Balance Theology

Another root problem in the evangelical church is misuse of the biblical idea of submission.This concept has been warped and twisted in so many ways that I doubt the biblical authors would recognize it.

Many Christians confuse obedience with submission. Even the traditional wedding ceremony contains the wife's promise to "obey" her husband. Yet scripture never uses "obey" in relation to wives; it does use the word in reference to slaves and children (Eph. 6:1,5) Another misapplication of this concept is the assumption that only women are to be submissive. The Bible is clear both in precept and in example that submission is the lifestyle of all Christians. Scripture calls for mutuality in the marriage relationship. (Eph.5:21)

Proper Biblical Roles between Men and Women in Marriage
  1. Both partners live in a daily, personal, voluntary, submission to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
  2. Love is based on a deep, mutual respect as the guiding principle behind all decisions, actions and plans. (I Cor. 13).
  3. Both partners are aware of their status as "heirs together" in Christ (I Peter 3:7) and as equal members of the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12) members uniquely gifted by God's Holy Spirit. Both recognize that the purpose of those gifts is to build up the body of Christ as well as their own relationship.
  4. Natural abilities and talents of each individual, as well as spiritual gifts, are a practical basis for delegating various roles and responsibilities in the home.
  5. The emphasis is on a mature relationship between two adults, not on prescribed, arbitrary roles or functions into which each personality rather than as a career or an organization.
  6. Each person maintains their own God-given personal identity and personality. The concept of being "one flesh" does not mean that each individual has lost his individuality or uniqueness."
  7. The sexual relationship is not only procreative but it is one of joy, fun, fulfillment and refreshment for both partners.
  8. Intimacy and deep emotional closeness replaces game playing and role playing.
  9. Honesty and fidelity are the cornerstones of healthy communication patterns, based on a deep, abiding trust in the other person and in Christ.
  10. Decision-making is based on process where both partner have a willingness to come to a mutually satisfying outcome. Consensus is the goal in all matters of importance and neither party manipulates the other to force agreement. Each person has areas of authority and responsibility where they themselves make decisions based on their gifts, talents, and expertise in those areas. When consensus does not come immediately, the matter is committed to prayer and is not acted upon until there's agreement

The Salvation Syndrome

A woman in a misogynistic relationship may believe that she can change or "save" her husband by being sweet, submissive and passive, but the reality is that this tactic does not work. She must realize the misogynists emotional investment in maintaining his stance. The misogynist's deepest fear is abandonment. He believes that the best way to keep his woman from leaving him is to cripple her emotionally, to limit her activities, and to keep her guessing psychologically. He does this by using the variety of tactics previously discussed. The goal is to keep her in her palace so he will not have to be alone. This action is unconscious; outwardly he appears to be in control, the ultimate master of his fate. This type of person will likely use God, salvation, the church and even conversion itself as more powerful ways to protect himself from abandonment. He may experience a conversion, but he will not alter his life game plan because of that conversion per se. In my experience, the CM must lose or almost lose his wife because of his behavior before he becomes honest enough to face his deepest fear and truly experience God's grace.

Another problem with the salvation syndrome is that it reinforces his wife's codependency. On one hand the codependent person sees herself as the victim, the martyr, the one called to suffer, and on the other, as the righteous one, the savior, the "Messiah", the one who is "right" and righteous...She keeps hoping God will act, while refusing to take the necessary action to confront her husband in order to change the dynamics of the situation. She fails to understand that perhaps one way God will use her to "help" her husband is by refusing to be abused and leaving him.

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