Things Women Hear in the Church

Things Women Hear in the Church May 15, 2013

I ran across two different articles today, each of which would have probably seemed only more appalling to me if they weren’t simply parroting things I heard growing up as a conservative evangelical.

The first was called True Love Doesn’t Wait, written by a married father of six. The basic premise? Church singles need to stop waiting for true love and just get married already. The author responds to a blog post made popular in the fury of Christian blogging on purity that followed a post on Elizabeth Esther sometime back about the evils of shame-based purity teachings. This blog post was called “I Don’t Wait Anymore.” If you’ve read that original post, you’ll find this response odd.

Far from saying ‘True Love Waits’, the church fathers (the protestant ones. Catholicism is another issue.) told the young people to, ummm, marry. And the church and their fathers were supposed to make sure this happened.

“To sum the matter up: whoever finds himself unsuited to the celibate life should see to it right away that he has something to do and to work at; then let him strike out in God’s name and get married. A young man should marry at the age of twenty at the latest, a young woman at fifteen to eighteen; that’s when they are still in good health and best suited for marriage. Let God worry about how they and their children are to be fed. God makes children; he will surely also feed them. Should he fail to exalt you and them here on earth, then take satisfaction in the fact that he has granted you a Christian marriage, and know that he will exalt you there; and be thankful to him for his gifts and favours.” ~ Martin Luther

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that True Love doesn’t wait. … True Love does not wait, it marries.

First of all, the post is bizarre. Does he seriously think that the problem for aging singles in the church is that they have their true love, they’re just, what, sitting around waiting with him instead of marrying him? Really? The problem isn’t that these women haven’t figured out how to marry, it’s that they haven’t found someone to marry. Of course, it appears that the author has a solution—he has rejected both dating and courtship and believes in, yes, betrothal.

But the thing is, I remember getting this same message about marriage. I remember reading articles in Christian publications suggesting that the solution to the problem of premarital sex was for people to stop waiting to get married, and instead marry at 18 or 20. I remember when a friend came to me at 18, telling me that she’d just started a relationship with a guy, and that the purity thing was killing them, and didn’t I think it would be a good idea for them to just get married, then? And she showed me an article from a Christian publication saying just that. I wasn’t sure what to say at the time, to be honest, because that’s what we were being taught—“it is better to marry than to burn.”

And what of the money issue? What of the fact that those who marry young are the most likely to get divorced? Well, first of all, God always provides, and second of all, good Christians can make any marriage work if they put God first in their lives. Or so I was told.

But enough of that. The second article I ran across was Pat Robertson’s advice to a woman who was struggling with living with a husband who had cheated on her. Now, normally I just ignore Pat Robertson, but this time what he was saying was, once again, things I heard growing up in the church.

On today’s 700 Club, Robertson told a woman whose husband was cheating on her that she should stop focusing on the adultery and instead ponder, “Does he provide a home for you to live in, does he provide food for you to eat, does he provide clothes for you to wear, is he nice to the children…is he handsome?”

After encouraging the woman to focus on the positives rather than her husband’s adultery, which Robertson imagined to be a one night stand with a stripper in a hotel room, he said she should “give him honor instead of trying to worry about it.”

He also suggested the woman could have done more to prevent her husband from cheating: “But recognize also, like it or not, males have a tendency to wander a little bit and what you want to do is make a home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander.”

I was struck by both Robertson’s assumption that husbands must provide for their wives, and that their wives should be happy and content if they’re doing that, and Robertson’s quick turn to victim blaming. I, too, was taught that at least part of the blame for man’s affair belonged to the women he cheated on—his wife. Why? Because she must not have been giving him good enough sex, or she must have been nagging him so he didn’t like being around her, etc. The man? Well, everyone knows that men “have a tendency to wander”—what that is is a removal of responsibility.

When I read blogs written by Christian feminists, one feeling I get is that the evangelical church needs to shut up, to stop talking to women, and to start listening to women. Because to be perfectly honest, the advice the church gives women, and it’s usually (though not always) given by men, is terrible.

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