At times, walking into a ‘religious’ book store feels like a trip into a new-age fantasy store (or the dark ages), or, dare I say, the USA. And when it comes to books on marriage, there are typically two types (both predominantly written by men); those that speak about the need for a women to be the lesser, unequal, weaker, submissive partner in the relationship, and those whose advice is completely misogynistic. I recently came across a new book by one of the more ‘radical and forward thinking’ Christian authors from the USA which failed to break this trend. The book Going All the Way: Preparing for a Marriage That Goes the Distance, by Craig Goeschal, contained a heading that literally made me want to tear the book up. He called his chapter on the husband’s role in a marriage “Lead-Her”; and yes, the premise was that as a man you are the “leader”, so go on and“Lead-Her”.
It is shocking that after all the advances we have seen,so many Christians still allow a cultural understanding and definition of what roles a man and a woman need to have in marriage and society to define themselves and their relationships (see Cobus on the Men’s movement for another example). They have managed to take a message of liberation and again allow it to be filled with one of inequality, all the while claiming it is done in God’s name to add legitimacy. The amount of abuse—physical, emotional and mental—thatoccurs just because a man by birth-right is superior is staggering.
This refutation obviously contains much discussion that goes beyond a mere blog-post; however, this is not the forum to give a detailed critique to the way that many choose to read the Bible (see this for a great rebuttal). Yet, I can say that far too many Christians allow their cultural understandings of the Bible to define what they choose to believe are God-given roles. In many ways, the 1950 ‘American Dream’image of the perfect Stepford wife has become what many see as the “biblical” way God wants married people to behave. This not only has no historical basis, it subverts the very message of Jesus, who treated women as equals and elevated them to the same positions as men.
It’s time we claimed back what marriage is. Marriage is not about power relations. Marriage is not about fulfilling roles that society has set. Marriage is about sharing your life, sharing experiences, sharing love with one person to who you are committed. Commitment, love, patience, growth are some of its cornerstones—not leadership, not submission, not domination.
I am married; and Candi and I are equal. And equality means that very thing, neither of us is above the other because of certain ‘roles’ or inherited rights. We are not living out an Animal Farm scenario where husbands and wives are equal, but husbands are more equal than wives. Our own strengths and weakness in our personal relationship lead us to work, grow and challenge each other. How sad that so many couples, who perhaps have a female who is a leader and a male who prefers to follow, end up living ina relationshipin which neither of them are being true to who God created them to be.
Let’s stop the rubbish: I don’t want to lead Candi; she doesn’t want to be led. We were created for equality.
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