Wives, Stop Submitting to Your Husbands. It’s The 21st Century, For Crying Out Loud.

I recently reviewed the Evangelical movie, “Fireproof” and some people shared their reactions to the film.  One woman commented that she didn’t care for the flick, that she thought it was full of conservative Christian propaganda about wives having to submit to their husbands. She admitted that perhaps her perspective was a bit shaded by some unfortunate experiences she had earlier with Evangelical misogyny.

Then a friend of mine criticized the movie for exactly the opposite reason; he felt the film had a very feminist perspective, that the husband was painted as a stereotypical bad guy. He thought there was too much talk of the husband having to make sacrifices for his wife, with little or no reward in sight, when she should have been submitting to him as well.  After all, the Bible (specifically Paul’s letter to the Ephesians) does say women should submit to their husbands. It was obvious to my friend that since  they no longer do so they have made a complete hash out of today’s marriages. He also admitted to possibly being influenced by some personal relationship issues.

Paul was a first century Jew with a first century masculine perspective.  He was addressing people, mostly men, who were part of a patriarchal society in which there was no question that woman were subordinate to men.  It was only natural for him to talk of wives submitting to husbands. (Before we too quickly condemn this culture it might help to remember that this is how we would have described America up until just a few years ago.) I find it interesting that Paul was unmarried and celibate, like today’s modern Roman Catholic priests.  A priest friend of mine once said that his lifestyle made him a poor choice as  a pastoral marriage counselor so he sent troubled couples to see the married Protestant minister down the road.  I would imagine Paul’s celibacy would also have disqualified him as an expert on marriage. And yet he is often given the last word on this subject.

Most of today’s Christians see the trouble with this idea of telling today’s  wives to be subordinate to their husbands and they get around this by talking of something called  ‘mutual submission’.  But is this idea even possible? I suggest that what we have here is an oxymoron.  A better word than ‘submit’  might be ‘sacrifice’ – an understanding that, like Christ, we will want to sacrifice our own wants, needs and comforts  for those of others,  particularly those we have made a lifetime commitment to love.

How would this relationship based upon sacrifice look? Would it be the case in which one spouse agrees to submit to the other in one particular area while taking the lead in another?  Would there be some sort of articulated formal arrangement of quid pro quo?  Should any marriages even try to fit the exalted template that so many Christian counselors are proposing in books, on radio and at marriage conferences?

I’ve seen plenty of couples torture themselves needlessly in their attempts to squeeze their 21st century marriages into Paul’s 1st century paradigm. A good marriage based upon mutual sacrifice consists of constant compromise – surrendering what is believed to be the high ground because we should be more interested in serving our partner than leading them.


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  1. #1 by logiopsychoambrosiaivorytowerpath on March 8, 2009 - 10:45 pm

    Okay, Auto,

    I believe it is that “clergy” of many stripes like to control anything they can, in the lives of their faithful.

    If they can go into the bedroom . . .

    Here’s one. I looked into Bible colleges a few years back. One that was popular among the folks at the church we used to attend had this line (or one like it) on their application:

    Sexual History Since Being Saved

    Really, I don’t make this stuff up, Auto.

    BTW, can I call you Car for short? Whoops. I guess I can call you anything for short.

  2. #3 by Steve B on March 9, 2009 - 8:40 am

    The Bible doesn’t condemn sex. It warns against sex outside of marriage. Within the marriage relationship, I would perhaps suggest, that it would in fact be “un-Chritsian NOT to have a healthy sexual relationship with your wife. If having sex with your wife made you somehow spiritually unclean, then most all of our married Protestant pastors are disqualified from the ministry.

    Of note, Paul also said that if young men couldn’t restrain their urges, they ought to get married, so that then they would at least be having conscionable sex. I would propose that dudes getting married just to have “approved” sex causes a lot more problems than just spritual infidelity. Some of Paul’s teachings need to be taken with a cultural grain of salt. IMHO.

    Doesn’t he, in fact, at one point say something to the effect of, “I don’t have a word from the Lord on this, but…”?

    • #4 by Christian Beyer on March 9, 2009 - 9:24 am

      Yeah. I just read that line. The implication is that if one can demonstrate some sort of sexual restraint then why get married?

      Paul does seem to have some personal issues when it comes to the issues of the ‘flesh’.

  3. #5 by logiopsychoambrosiaivorytowerpath on March 9, 2009 - 6:35 pm

    Like those ultra-fundamentalist Mormons in Arizona–it’s all about the men creating a utopia at the expense of the women–so they can have an orgy.

  4. #6 by Christian Beyer on March 10, 2009 - 8:54 am

    Bruce! How intolerant! 😉

  5. #7 by logiopsychoambrosiaivorytowerpath on March 10, 2009 - 7:35 pm

    Just doing what I can.

  6. #8 by RLTJ on March 26, 2009 - 4:34 pm

    “male sexist” also known as “male chauvinism” can still be found today. We have to believe that it is one culture that belonged to Feudal or Medieval era, or perhaps before that.

    I believe in women’s liberation before I even met my wife. In fact she was the type that was raised where women were “submissive to men”.

    Women’s Lib works only when both, the man and the woman believe in it. Other than that I dont know. One thing I know, if only the woman believes and the male does not chances are that her struggle can easily turn into female chauvinism.

    Should male do all the hard work and female seat pretty or be limited to bed? Surely not!

    More often both need to be educated about women’s lib.
    Today, people need little teach-in about that as it has in fact become part of modern culture without many people noticing it. Yes, social evolution.

  7. #9 by pochp on March 26, 2009 - 8:28 pm

    There goes the problem: bible vs. social evolution.

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