Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 269-270
Here we come to the last example Debi offers regarding when it is okay to not obey your husband. Next week we will see her attempt to sum up what she’s saying here, and the week after we will see her mangle the story of Abigail in the Old Testament.
My Husband Doesn’t Want Me to Go to Church
My husband says I can’t go to church in the evening anymore. I feel if I do not have this sweet time of fellowship, I will not be able to continue to walk faithful before God. God’s word says not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together, so it would be direct violation of God’s word to not go. My husband told me to write and ask you.
In case readers are wondering, it is common for Baptist churches to have service on Sunday evenings and Wednesday evenings in addition to Sunday mornings.
If Carla wanted my advice, I’d tell her that the decision is ultimately hers, but that she should talk this through with her husband. If I had more time commitments than my husband liked, we would talk about it. I would listen to his concerns or desires, I would voice my own, and we would come to some sort of agreement. The same is true for times when my husband has more commitments than I prefer, and there are times when this has happened (especially regarding how many nights each week he should work late). This is a communication thing, and a partnership thing.
But then, Carla wasn’t asking for my advice. She was asking for Debi’s.
It is common for unsaved or discouraged husbands to forbid their wives from going to church.
Is it? No really, I’m curious—is this actually “common”? I’m honestly curious.
In almost all cases, the husband’s objections are not based on a desire to prevent her from worshiping God. Rather, he views her affiliation with the church as a second lover, maybe the preferred lover, and himself as a jilted spouse. He is jealous. He is unfulfilled as a husband and believes that the church is somehow getting your first love.
Woah, woah, slow down. Look, a guy who doesn’t want his wife to go to church may well feel unfulfilled as a husband, but he also might just feel like it’s eating up too much of her time. I don’t think I’d jump straight from begrudging the amount of time she’s spending at church to being “unfulfilled as a husband.” That’s way overdramatizing the situation and is very unhelpful, especially when said to women who believe their duty in life is to fulfill their husbands.
I also think we’re jumping too fast from “doesn’t want” to “forbids.” I mean, on some level I don’t want my husband to play Starcraft. It takes time that he could be spending doing other things, like washing the dishes in the sink, and frankly I don’t get the appeal. We’ve talked about it and come to an agreement (that he plays after the kids are in bed, for instance), but it still seems like a silly use of time to me. But here’s the thing: I’m not going to forbid him from playing Starcraft. For one thing, that would be abusive, but for another thing I understand that he gets something out of it that I may not understand, but that is fulfilling and edifying for him. A man could find his wife’s church attendance silly and wish, on some level, that she wouldn’t go to church without forbidding her from going to church.
Of course, this doesn’t work so well in Debi’s world. In her world, if a man wishes she didn’t go to church, that’s the same as if he forbids her from going to church, because a wife is to submit to and obey any of her husband’s wishes and desires—and to put doing what he wants in front of what she wants.
Beyond this, I can think of other reasons a man not want his wife to attend church—some good, some very, very bad. For example, a man might feel that his wife’s church attendance is making her judgmental toward him, or towards others. Of course, this should lead to a conversation, not to him commanding her not to go to church. As another example, an abusive husband might want to isolate his wife from her church to ensure that his control over her is complete. He might feel that she is getting too much support and fulfillment from her friends at church, and that this is taking away from his ability to control her.So, yes, Debi is once again boiling things down to easy answers and simple formulas.
Now, a wife with no wisdom might take satisfaction in his jealousy, thinking of herself as putting God first, but true worship of God is never neglectful of relationships. Loving God and serving him should make you a more attentive wife, a better lover to your husband.
See if it were me with too many commitments and my husband wanting to see more of me, I’d probably feel flattered and glad to know that he appreciates my company so much. These women Debi talks about, finding self-righteous satisfaction in spending so much time on church that their family members feel neglected—I don’t get these women.
The bottom line is that, if your husband does not want you to go to church, then stay home and paint the house with him. Go fishing or shipping, whatever he wants to do, and make sure you are having fun. To obey him with disappointment and reluctance is not obedience; it is revenge.
Okay, here Debi finally answers the question. But before looking at her answer, I want to touch on that last bit—regarding how a woman is to obey her husband. It strikes me that what Debi says is very similar to what Michael says about how children are to obey in To Train Up A Child. A child obeying with a frown is counted as disobedience. It seems a wife obeying with a frown is counted as revenge. This sort of obedience isn’t just about controlling actions, it’s also about controlling emotions—and that makes it much, much worse.
But back to Debi’s actual answer. A woman, she says, is to obey her husband if her forbids her from attending church. This leaves me wondering—what if he forbids her from reading the Bible? Or from praying? These questions would be more interesting ones to see Debi address, because her answer here is frankly not at all surprising given the Pearls’ frequent skepticism of churches and pastors and the fact that worship is possible outside of the church (and encouraged, in these circles!). If Debi would have women stop reading the Bible or praying at their husband’s command, it would cement her creation of a religion centered on husband-worship rather than any fragment of God-worship.
It’s worth noting that Debi’s not the only one to hold this view—that wives should not attend church if forbidden by their husbands. Michael Farris of HSLDA—the man who declares him self not one of those patriarchal homeschoolers—himself believes this. In his book, The Spiritual Power of a Mother, he instructed women whose husbands forbid them to attend church to stay at home and find other ways to give their children religious instruction. In other words, this is a very common position in these circles.
In sum, what we have here is more of what we’ve been seeing—Debi once again chose a situation that’s not that hard to answer. Your husband is sexually molesting your son? Report him. Your husband is stealing out of tractor trailer trucks? Report him. Debi’s other examples were more tortured—don’t have sex with your husband while he pretends he’s a woman because it’s mental lesbianism, and don’t sign an inaccurate tax return (provided your objection is your conscience and not a desire to control your husband)—but by and large she has avoided the harder questions.
Will she remedy this next week with a clearer explanation? Stay tuned!