Earlier this week, I posted a short theological quiz about marriage and our feminized church. My question was simple. What is wrong with this statement?
Men, you must love your wives. A woman responds to your sacrificial love (the love that Christ has towards his church), and if you love her sacrificially, she will reward that love with her admiration, her respect, and her affection. You would never think of withdrawing money from an ATM without first making a deposit, would you? You must invest in your spouse through your care, your attention, your romance, and your pursuit of her. A woman thrives in such circumstance, and she responds with an overflow of love towards you and your children. Yet men again and again try to “withdraw” love from their wives without making a sufficient deposit.
I received a number of excellent answers, both on the blog and on my Facebook page. My favorite answer, which combines brevity with truth, comes from “BikerDad.” His first paragraph absolutely nails it:
It places all the burden on the husband. If a woman doesn’t “respond with an overflow of love”, it’s HIS FAULT. The possibility that she is a deeply flawed individual wth her own issues that he CANNOT control doesn’t exist.
Exactly. Many answers made variations on this point: the pastor’s description not only placed the entire burden on the husband, it presumed a virtuous response from the wife. In other words, if the fallen man could only bring himself to love a woman in the right way, his virtuous wife would respond, and their marriage will prosper.
While I have little doubt that if you ask the average evangelical pastor, “Do women suffer from original sin just as men do?” they’d quickly answer yes. But in spending a lifetime in our feminized church, we often don’t treat women as suffering from the same tendency towards depravity as men. In fact, the number of self-flagellating sermons I’ve heard from men could fill an iPod, and the detailed attacks on men are by now well-known. We’re emotionally closed. We’re too focused on sex. We’re too aggressive. We’re potentially violent. We’re too focused on careers. We’re too focused on sports. We value male friendship too much. Again and again comes the message: Spend less time at work, less time with friends, less time on sports, and open yourself to your wife and children.
Yet after more than a generation of such a relentless messaging, the experts tend to agree: men are in crisis. We do worse in school, we’re doing worse in careers, and boys are heavily medicated. Yet do we ever ask whether an educational system and culture that essentially does its dead-level best to drain every bit of aggression and martial courage and emotional toughness from young boys is actually good for boys?
With my own eyes and ears, I’ve seen and heard pastors and church leaders take traditionally male characteristics and turn them into vices while taking traditionally female characteristics (and yes I know that everyone is an individual, but in general men and women are different) and turn them into virtues. Yet aggression isn’t inherently a vice. In fact, it’s a tremendous virtue if properly channeled and a vice if not. On the other hand, emotional openness can be a vice in the wrong context. We’re all fallen, and all of our characteristics are relentlessly turned and warped and twisted by our enemy, and if any of us — male or female — uncritically indulges our “nature,” then we soon become agents of destruction.
Ironically enough, even as the culture has pounded the manhood out of men, women still don’t like them. Women initiate the vast majority of divorces. (Interestingly, it’s tough to argue this is because men are still louts, because lesbian “marriages” fare no better.) In other words, our culture has created a vision of manhood that no one likes. Men naturally rebel against the “woman-with-testicles” ideal of popular culture, while millions of women ultimately find emasculated men to be, well, pathetic.
There is a created order. We were created “male and female” with different natures and different needs. In other words, gender is not just a “social construct.” Yet our natures are corrupted by sin — both male and female — and we depend on God’s grace not just for our next breath but for anything good and virtuous that comes from our lives and character. We would do well to understand the created order and seek diligently God’s redemption within that context rather than rejecting that order, exalting the feminine, and hectoring men into becoming better women than their wives.