Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 19-20
Debi starts Chapter 1, “God’s Gift,” with her signature act: A letter she received from a reader. This letter provides an excellent illustration of why women are drawn to Debi’s advice.
Dear Mike and Debi,
I want to thank you both for explaining what I was doing to my husband. I was definitely a Jezebel type…
Debi doesn’t say which article this reader was writing in response to, but given her reference to “Jezebel” she is almost certainly replying to Debi’s article titled “The Jezebel Profile.” So what does it mean to be “a Jezebel type”? You might think Debi uses the term to refer to being demanding, nagging, or “bitchy.” She doesn’t. Here is what she says about “the Jezebel type” in her article:
When the name Jezebel comes to mind, most of us see the painted face of a seductively dressed woman gazing into the eyes of a man who lacks good sense. The Bible portrays Jezebel in a different light.
Revelation 2:20 says that Jezebel “calleth herself a prophetess,” and men received her as a teacher. This was given as a warning to the church. The one whom you have received as a spirit filled teacher comes to you in the great tradition of Jezebel. We have observed that many wives have stalled their half of the marriage by assuming the spiritual headship of the home. They would teach their husbands. But consider 1 Cor. 14:34-35, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
I went back to I Kings to see what the Bible had to say about this woman Jezebel. The first thing I noticed was that Jezebel was more religious than her husband. She was spiritually intense. The Bible says in 1 Cor 11:3, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” As a woman, our place is under our husband, especially in the spiritual realm. Regardless of our circumstances, when we take the spiritual lead, we have stepped out from under our head. We have tried to rearrange God’s designated place for us. We are no longer in God’s will.
(Note to the uninitiated: There are two Jezebels in the Bible, the Old Testament wicked queen Jezebel, and the New Testament false prophetess Jezebel.)
Something really bizarre is going on here. The Old Testament Jezebel, a queen of Israel, did not worship the Jewish God. She worshiped Baal. And yes, she led her husband Ahab, the king of Israel, away from the God of the Jews to worship Baal with her. Debi ignores the fact that Jezebel worshiped the wrong God – as in, completely omits that and instead speaks of her as being especially spiritual – and instead acts like Jezebel’s crime was being a “spiritual leader” rather than, you know, worshiping a false God.
In some sense, what Debi is doing here isn’t unprecedented. All throughout the Middle Ages priests and monks used images like Eve, deceived by the serpent, and Jezebel, false prophetess of the New Testament and wicked queen of the Old Testament, to deprive women of any form of spiritual leadership. Women were portrayed as deceivers, the spreaders of false doctrine, especially prone to being led into apostasy and in need of instruction in correct doctrine.
But Debi takes this a step further. The problem, according to her, is not about woman teaching correct doctrine or being prone to apostasy. It doesn’t matter whether a woman’s theological beliefs are accurate or not. The core of the problem, according to Debi, is women taking the “spiritual lead.” End and full stop. And the next section of the reader’s letter echoes this:
I was definitely a Jezebel type, but I have changed! I felt broken inside when I read your article. I asked God to help me learn what His views were of marriage and how he wanted me to respond to my husband. At first, I only made little changes in what I did for him, but at least my attitude was different. The truth has set me free.
I want to let you know that the changes in me have astonished me – and my husband! And, the changes in him have left me dumbfounded. He is more caring, eager to please, spends more time with the girls and myself, and the level of intimacy is wonderful! I had spent years scratching my head and wondering why he would not take a position of leadership in the home. I did not realize that I controlled many situations because I feared my husband would not handle them correctly. We had both grown bitter, and love-making was not love; it was necessary sex – when it was unavoidable.
In other words, being a “Jezebel type” means “wearing the pants.”
But then there is the inevitable question. The reader says that she and her husband had both grown bitter. Why? We can’t know. Clearly, she and her husband were unhappy in their marriage. They probably would have benefited from going to marital counseling. Strike that, they certainly would have benefited from going to marital counseling. They needed to communicate, discuss their differences, and work things out. But of course, that’s not what Debi recommends. Debi has a formula for the perfect marriage, and that formula doesn’t include communication. (Seriously, it really truly doesn’t, not once, not ever.)
But I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that part of the reason for this couple’s discontent may have been that they believed they were supposed to have certain roles in their marriage, but they both knew they weren’t actually following those roles. Most of the women who write to Debi are already churched. As this reader makes clear, they believe that husbands are supposed to be the leaders and that wives are supposed to submit, they’re just not sure exactly what that means or how to attain that, and Debi helps them out.
Of course, Debi’s interpretation is slightly different. She doesn’t think that these men become bitter because they’re told in church that they’re supposed to be the leaders in their homes but that’s not happening. Instead, she thinks that these men become bitter because they’re, well, men, and that’s what men do when a woman takes a leadership role. More from the Jezebel article:
The second thing I observed was that Ahab was emotionally volatile—unstable. Is your husband prone to retreat? Is he bitter, angry, or depressed? When a woman takes the lead, she is playing the masculine role. Unless her husband fights her for supremacy, he must assume second place. And men who are forced into spiritual subjection to their wives tend to be angry and retreat like Ahab.
In other words, when a woman takes the lead, “playing the masculine role,” it causes her husband to be “bitter, angry, or depressed.” Note that there is no consideration that two individuals could share leadership. Nope. Marriage becomes a fight between husband and wife for supremacy. One must have it, and the other must be in “second place.” Equality is not an option. That Debi has come to this conclusion really makes me want to know more about the early years of her marriage. It’s a conclusion absolutely not borne out in my own experience, or in the experiences of many, many of those I know. Equality in marriage is possible, Debi or no.
Beyond this point about hierarchy not being necessary, note that there is also an assumption made here about men – that they need to be the leaders in their relationships, or they become “bitter, angry, or depressed.” If a woman doesn’t let a man lead, he will – naturally – be “angry.” What evidence does she provide for this? None. She’s making a pretty big claim about men’s nature here. Basically, she’s saying that unless men are in charge, they’ll be forever bitter and angry. This strikes me as … juvenile and immature of them?
Anyway, that, then, is “the Jezebel type.” This reader’s crime was that she took leadership in her home. Because she took leadership, her husband was “angry, bitter, … depressed.” Because this reader knew that neither she nor her husband were fulfilling the roles they were supposed to fulfill, she was bitter too. When she read Debi’s article, she was convicted (aka she felt guilty). She does not say exactly what she changed in her dealings with her husband, but presumably she stepped back and started being submissive and letting him make all the decisions – and presumably she started to focus on “serving” him with love and joy. And the result was a transformation of both him and their relationship.
Again and again, Debi promises her readers that if they just start being submissive and serving their husbands with a smile, their husbands will suddenly turn into the men of their dreams. This is fascinating. Submission and service isn’t simply portrayed as womens’ duty – though there is that too – but rather as a way women can get men to stop doing X, Y, Z annoying thing and start being what they want them to be. This strikes me as … manipulative? Not healthy, surely. Healthy would be communicating, compromising, and cooperating. But of course, none of those things are in Debi’s playbook.
Back to the end of this reader’s letter:
When we first married, I started this little nonsense thing where, if we had a blow-up, I would say the “flower petals chant” under my breath, “…He loves me not.” And if we were having a fun time, I would say, “He loves me.” After several years, I realized that I had stopped saying, “He loves me,” and almost daily I was saying, “He loves me not.”
Guilt washes over me when I think of the wasted years and how blind I was to my own faults. It has been very hard to confess. I am so thankful to now know my palce as my husband’s helper and friend. Yesterday my husband slipped in and grabbed me from behind. I felt his whispered breath in my ear and realized he was saying over and over again, “He loves me, He loves me, He loves me.” Tears poured down my face in thanksgiving, and while save in his arms, I took u the chant, “He loves me, He loves me, He loves me.” No one knows how precious those words are until you almost lose them. Thank God he helped me see the truth before I totally lost my one true love. Learning to be the help meet God created me to be,
This is the promise Debi holds out. Is your marriage troubled? Is your husband bitter? Is he not being the leader you believe he’s supposed to be? Are you tired of fighting? Then follow my advice, and you will have the man of your dreams, and the relationship of your dreams – and of course, you’ll become the wife of your husband’s dreams. And of course, Debi throws around anecdote after anecdote as proof that her formula works.
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Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
The Beautiful Girlhood Doll by Libby Anne
Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce