Shine, Complementarian Wife, Shine!

My oppressed, non-liberated wife

For a long time I read Rachel Held Evans’ blog. She’s a liberal Protestant who grew up as a traditional Evangelical Protestant.

But as time wore on, her posts centered more and more on a certain understanding of egalitarianism in husband-wife relationships, where the husband and the wife are “equal” (in, it seems, every way). Her goal was to combat a certain kind of complementarianism that many Evangelical Protestants believe in, where men and women have different roles in the life of the family.

This all is reaching its climax with the publication of her book (purportedly) on a year of living “biblical womanhood.” It’s the whole “live something out for a year” gimmick that has been making the rounds in the past several years. I admit that I’m not a fan of it, though I get Rachel’s point in doing it, which is once again to combat a certain kind of interpretive lens that Evangelical Protestants use to understand the Bible.

Her husband, Dan, has come out (bravely?) in showing how he is man enough to support Rachel’s endeavors, so that her voice will not be silenced but will be heard by the widest possible audience.

Through it all one gets the idea that there are two camps: “egalitarians” whose husbands are enlightened, modern men, with liberated women for wives and “complementarians” whose wives are barefoot and pregnant year-round, slaving away in the kitchen, baby on one hip, while pops is sitting on the couch drinking beers and watching the football game, occasionally demanding more pork rinds in between belches.

And I just have to say, this is total bunk.

Complementarianism, properly understood, does mean that husbands and wives are made differently. They are not the same. Their gifts are not the same; their bodies are not the same. The husband is head of the wife. The wife submits to the husband. Yet they are equal in dignity.

Should the husband serve his wife? Absolutely, and on this Dan Evans and I can agree. Should the husband want to see his wife “succeed,” as according to God’s will? Absolutely. And just to prove that plenty of complementarian men do this, observe the following three cases:

The Heldts from Just Showing Up

Brianna is a star blogger, with a blog many times more popular than mine. She’s a great mom, and they’ve adopted several children, yet she goes to conferences, and she writes, and she’s on the radio. And through all of it her husband–a friend of mine–supports her and goes to work each day as an engineer to provide for them.

The Fulwilers from Conversion Diary

Last I checked Jen’s blog was something like 30 times more popular than mine. It’s probably even greater than that now. Jen is a Catholic super-star, with one of the most (if not the most) popular Catholic blogs on the planet. She’s on the radio; she’s giving talks around the country; she’s writing a book; she’s syndicated everywhere except the National Catholic Reporter, she’s on the cover of magazines climbing ladders; and now she even has a TV show.

And her husband sits quietly behind the scenes and supports everything she does.

Katie from It’s Fun to be a Girl

A.k.a. my wife. At this very moment she is making blog posts, planning a national conference for women, writing a book, and preparing to present her signature It’s Fun to be a Girl program to parishes in our diocese.

And ours is a complementarian marriage. (I feel like I should start a video ad campaign like the Mormons do, showing all these cool couples then they look at the camera and say “And I’m a complementarian.”) I am the head; she is the heart. She submits to me. And I serve her in love, as Christ loved the Church.

Granted, I have a blog of my own and have some moderate following, but I can easily see Katie surpassing it and then some in the next few years. I dunno, maybe she’ll become the Catholic Beth Moore (whose husband, incidentally, must be a complementarian yet also seems to have no problem supporting her astronomic success). And I would be happy about that–thrilled!

Because, yes, I want my wife’s voice to be heard, because she is proclaiming the full truth of who women are, something, I am sad to say, that Rachel Held Evans falls short of. And yet Katie cooks meals, and does laundry, and stays home with our children, and all the other things that liberated women see as evils of “patriarchy.” I don’t force her to do these things, she does them on her own accord. And I help when I can, when she needs it, because it’s a big job to take care of the children and make the house a home.

We are one flesh, becoming more and more one heart and one soul.

Protestants, lacking sacred Tradition and the Magisterium, seem to get pulled to two extremes on the question of husband-wife relationship: the “egalitarian” view that tries to explain away or ignore the real differences between men and women, as well as the numerous biblical texts, and the “complementarian” view that husbands rule over their wives like club-wielding neanderthals in a rigid patriarchy. Both extremes have elements of truth but are mixed heavily with error.

And so it is in the Catholic Church that the full dignity and beauty of woman are preserved and upheld, and the full dignity of man is properly understood.

Rachel is right when she shows in her book that “everyone picks and chooses” from the Bible. She does it, and so do her opponents. But what Rachel doesn’t realize is that her picking and choosing is as arbitrary as theirs is, for both are missing the Tradition of the Church and the rightful teaching authority that is guided by the Holy Spirit. The solution, simple but hard, is for them all to leave Protestantism and enter full communion with the Catholic Church.

So I say: shine, complementarian wife, shine! Your husband will support you.

Let Your Children Decide Their Own Beliefs–Not!

Winning!

I grew up in a home where my mother and father, both fallen-away Christians, wanted to let my sister and I “decide our own beliefs.”

The idea, of course, is that we are blank slates and my parents would not indoctrinate me into a particular religion, thus letting me collect data and inputs over time and eventually grow up and choose my own beliefs or worldview. I can see how someone would think this makes sense.

But in fact my sister and I both became agnostics, mirroring the (un)belief system of our parents. This was no accident, because it’s impossible to rear your child in a vacuum. Whether you like it or not, you are teaching them things about the world, existence, and faith (through your actions, the things you say (and don’t say), etc.).

They bought us books on evolution that claimed humans evolved from single-celled organisms; we never once said a prayer in our home thanking “someone” for the many blessings we had; we only went to church for a short time, and that was at the Unitarian Universalist one where people believed all kinds of contradictory things. In short, the guidance we were given supported an atheistic materialism worldview and argued against a Christian one.

It is not surprising then that my sister and I both became agnostics (though in truth I was militantly atheistic, seeking to convince Christian friends that God did not exist). Did we choose this? Yes, but the unbelief of our parents was an instrumental influence in our decision, as it is with any child.

There is no escaping influencing your child. The only question is: what will you influence them to believe? 

This great responsibility is all the more reason to yourself delve into philosophy so as to understand the right use of reason, allowing you to penetrate into the truths of existence and ultimately supporting the assent of faith in Jesus Christ and His Church. Along these lines, I would highly recommend Dr. Feser’s book The Last Superstition, which refutes the New Atheists via the right use of reason. Reason is on the side of Christianity.

You can only give what you yourself possess: form yourself in the truth that you may pass it on to your children. Do not be fooled when an atheist claims you are “indoctrinating” your children into your belief system. You are teaching them the objective truth of existence. They are seeking to do the same, only their beliefs are false and so they pass on errors to their children.

Whether Christians or atheists, we have the responsibility as parents to teach our children how to reason cogently. If we instruct them in this invaluable skill, we can be hopeful that they will be able to discover the truth.