by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love Joy Feminism
Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 110-114
In this passage, Debi turns to famous women of the Bible to illustrate women’s proper role. She starts by discussing Jezebel, rehashing some of the same points she made when she discussed Jezebel in her introductory section. Jezebel, if you remember, was a Phoenician noblewoman who worshiped Baal, and she converted her husband King Ahab of Israel to Baal worship as well, and had Jewish prophets killed. Here is what Debi has to say:
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.” Regardless of our circumstances, when we women take the spiritual lead, we step out from under our rightful head.
Once again Debi has a problem with women being more religious or spiritual than their husbands—”regardless of their circumstances.” Which leads me to wonder—what would Debi have women with unbelieving husbands do? Should they, too, cease to believe or risk stepping out from under their “rightful head”?
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 in marriage, her assuming of the masculine role makes a weak man weaker, to the point of “sending him to bed”—as did Jezebel to Ahab.
Notice that Debi’s response to a man who is bitter, angry, or depressed is that his wife better not grow a spine, because that would make things worse. After all, if a woman took the lead in such a marriage and urged her husband to get help, or did what she had to to care for herself and her children, she would be taking the “masculine role” and contributing to making her husband’s problems even worse. This is actually strikes me as rather the opposite of good advice for a troubled marriage—and as unhealthy advice for adults in general.
The third and most significant thing I noticed was that she used his emotional stress to endear herself to him—a strange way of lording over the husband. Jezebel manipulated and accused an innocent man, then had him murdered so that Ahab could obtain his vineyard. Ahab, in depression, kept his “face to the wall” and let her do her dark deeds. Today, if a woman is willing to play her husband’s role in directing the family, he will lose his natural drive to bear responsibility. He will turn his face to the wall.
Two things to say here. First, some couples work well with the wife taking what Debi would call “the leadership role” and the husband being more laid back and easy going. This isn’t necessarily an inversion of Debi’s patriarchal relationship (although in some situations it can be), because it’s not about the husband submitting, it’s about the couple dividing responsibility and specializing in what they’re good at. Some women are very good at being organized go getters and some men would simply prefer to not have to worry about those things, and that’s fine so long as the couple is communicating and each party is happy. (Note: An actual inversion of Debi’s patriarchal version is just as wrong as her patriarchal version.)
Second, while a relationship in which the wife plays what Debi would call the “leadership role” is not a problem so long as it’s mutually agreed upon and both parties are happy with the division of responsibility, if the wife takes initiative and the husband is unhappy with that and responds by withdrawing and being sulky (which is something Debi seems to be implying happens), that’s a problem, but not for the reason Debi thinks it is. Put simply, it’s not mature to respond to something not going the way you like it by clamming up and sulking rather than communicating and dealing with the problem. If I were to, say, start laying preliminary plans for a family vacation without checking with Sean and he were to be upset, the proper response would be for him to talk to me about it, <i>not</i> for him to stop talking to me and sulk. But then, Debi doesn’t seem to have any idea of how a healthy relationship actually ought to work.
The fourth thing that jumped out at me was that Ahab could easily be manipulated by his wife to suit her purposes. She stirred his passive spirit, provoking him to react in anger. Jezebel used him to set up images and kill God’s prophets. Often, a man becomes involved in the Church, not because God has called him or because it is in his heart to do so, but because he is trying to please his wife by at least LOOKING spiritual. When a husband steps into a spiritual role at his wife’s beckoning, he becomes vulnerable to her “guidance” in that role. Jezebel took steps to help promote her spiritual leaders. In the process, she provoked her husband to destroy those in spiritual authority whom she did not like. Have you influenced your husband to think evil of those in authority because you did not like something about them?
Wow, what a lot to unpack here. First, apparently it’s bad for a Christian woman to try to get her husband to go to church. Because apparently, if a man becomes involved in a church at his wife’s urging, because he wants to make her happy, the result is that he’s somehow under her spiritual headship. One wonders what a wife who wants her unbelieving husband to go to church with her should do. Submit and obey, I suppose, and hope that he’ll figure it out himself? I actually think that might be Debi’s answer, given that she elsewhere talks about how women can witness to their unsaved husbands by simply being the best most biblical perfectly submissive and cheerful obedient wife possible.
Second, Debi seems to suggest that it’s wrong for a woman to ever talk bad about those in spiritual authority “whom she does not like.” Somehow, that is once again exercising spiritual leadership over her husband. And this makes me think of all the discussions of spiritual abuse and the huge sexual abuse scandals that have been rocking Sovereign Grace Ministries. Apparently Debi’s idea of male spiritual headship extends so far that it even applies to women who simply want to talk with their husbands about concerns they have or problems they see—that would be exercising spiritual headship over their husbands. So, Debi’s conclusion from Jezebel: Don’t ever try to exercise any form of leadership in your marriage, including trying to get your husband to go to church or trying to get him to believe that yes, you really did see Deacon Smith being inappropriate with that Hunt girl.
Okay, here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure scripture doesn’t hate on Jezebel because she was more religious or spiritual than her husband. I’m pretty sure scripture hates on Jezebel because she was on the wrong side. As I said before, Jezebel was a Phoenician who worshiped Baal, and she converted her husband Ahab to Baal worship as well, and she had Jewish prophets killed. Her sin wasn’t being spiritual or religious or a leader over her husband, it was worshiping the wrong God. And I think I can demonstrate that.
I’ve noticed that Debi has yet to mention Abigail. There’s probably good reason for that. Her story only takes up one chapter of the Bible, go read it. Abigail, who is described as an intelligent and beautiful woman, is the wife of Nabal, who is described as “surly and mean.” When David sends men to ask Nabal for food and water, Nabal spurns his men and sends them away with harsh words. David decides to make war against Nabal, but Abigail finds out what happens and acts quickly—taking a leadership role and going behind her husband’s back. She goes to David personally, takes his men food and water and apologizes for her husband, calling him “wicked” and a “fool”—which definitely meets the definition of disrespecting your husband in public. David relents and does no harm to Nabal or his people, and when Nabal is struck down by God ten days later (note that it’s Nabal who is struck down, not his rebellious wife who has shamed him by taking a leadership role), David takes Abigail as his wife. Abigail is never punished for disrespecting her husband, and is instead rewarded. Why? Because he was on the wrong side and she was on the right side.
Finally, Debi gives brief profiles of both Ruth and Esther. She explains that Ruth “maintained a thankful and submissive attitude” and that we should note “her humility and the deference she paid to all in authority.” Esther, she says, “rose above her circumstances and her natural fear to honor her husband, even as she made an appeal to save her own life, along with the lives of her people.” It’s funny, I guess I thought Ruth was the story of two women using their female wiles and knowledge of inheritance laws to put a roof over their heads (come on, Naomi is quite the conniving woman!), and that Esther was the story of a brave woman pushing the boundaries of the rules to save her people (she wasn’t supposed to come to her husband without being summoned, remember?). Apparently I read those wrong.
Next week we learn about the Proverbs 31 Woman, and also about what it actually should look like for a woman to be “spiritual.” Let me put it this way: This isn’t something you’re going to want to miss.
Comments open below
Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
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