The section from Grudem I mentioned in my last post finishes with this paragraph (from page 45):
Finally, there is the testimony from both men’s and women’s hearts. There is something in a man that says, “I don’t want to be dependent on a woman to provide for me in the long term. I want to be the one responsible to provide for the family, the one my wife looks to and depends on for support.” I have never met a man who does not feel some measure of shame at the idea of being supported by his wife in the long term...
There may very well be something in the hearts of some men that says “I don’t want to be dependent on a woman to provide for me,” but perhaps there’s also something in the hearts of some men that says “I could beat every person here in an arm wrestling competition” or “I think farts are funny.” I’m just saying that the testimony from peoples’ hearts shouldn’t be one of the things we base our theology on, especially if we’re going to completely ignore any sociological factors that lead those hearts to think the way they do.
I’ve noticed, from Biblical Truth and Evangelical Feminism and elsewhere, that there’s a huge burden placed on Christian husbands by complementarians: the responsibility to provide for his family, the responsibility (as many believe) for his wife’s spiritual well-being as well as the spiritual well-being of any children he may have. Combined, it’s a pressure that could easily become overwhelming, although, seeing as these are the primary responsibilities of a “Biblical man”, it would be difficult - if not impossible - for some men to admit that they’re close to buckling under the weight; that they’re not “manly” enough to cope. Believing that you’re less of a man because you’re unable to fulfil roles that others have forced on you would be, for some at least, a catalyst for a full-blown depressive identity crisis, not to mention a reason to angrily question the God who designed you to be so lacking.
My heart aches for these guys, particularly when these are responsibilities that don’t actually belong to them; after all, it’s not men who provide for their wives, it’s God. It’s not men who’ll present their wives holy and blameless on the last day; that’s Jesus’ job. Men don’t have supreme control over their health, their employment, their wives or their children; God does. If a man wants to be the one his wife depends on for her security and well-being, he is asking her to make an idol of him, to look to him for things she should look only to God for; not to get all didactic about this, but that’s called sin. If a man feels ashamed that his wife earns a better (or the only) income, as if that money comes solely from her talents and not from God’s abundantly gracious hand, that’s sin too. No one else should be given the credit or honour (with or without envy) for God’s good gifts!
Ignoring this for now, my question to the churches who embrace Grudem’s complementarian theology is this: If a man’s primary responsibility is to provide for and protect his wife and family, what does the church do with Christian men who struggle with this burden, who feel like their faith is weaker than their wives’, who are chronically sick and/or who are unemployed? What messages (implicit or otherwise) are these men hearing from their churches? Are they words of grace and comfort? Words that make them want to return each week for another dose of Godly refreshment and encouragement?
It’s not only husbands who feel the pressure of Grudem’s primary responsibility for men, as anyone who’s listened to a Driscoll sermon will tell you; it seems there are plenty of single guys who don’t yet feel ready to carry the weight of these expectations. I wonder how many of these men would respond better to a message along the lines of, “Hey, guys! Guess what? God is much bigger and your future wife more intelligent than you give them credit for!” rather than the old, “Be a man! Step up! Get a job! Etc., etc.” I’m no expert on this, being female and all, but from all of the data I’ve collected from my extensive studies of the two males in my household, I’ve found that 100% of the time they prefer cuddles to yelling.
The men in my church, and in The Church, are my brothers, and, as their loving sibling, I get defensive when people try to make them feel as though they’re less than who they are in God’s eyes. Plus, they hang out with my sisters, and I want to protect those women too.
More about those gals in the next post...