Sunday, June 29, 2008

Touching Testimony

The storm of response to Bruce Ware's sermon has had some positive results. Here is a touching response.


I want to just say bullshit and write this off as another “me Tarzan, You Jane” sermon by a Neanderthal preacher.

But this type of thinking is all to common in Evangelical circles. In the Baptist circles I grew up in this was the predominant view. My wife was taught, as a pastor’s wife, her primary duty in life was to make sure everyone thought well of her husband. She even had a class in how to properly give a tea party. (no I am not kidding)

John R Rice was the predominant family guru and he advocated that women were best served by being at home, married, and pregnant.

My wife and I started married life with the John R Rice philosophy of family. I worked. She stayed at home and had babies. She did work for a time in the Church daycare or Christian School but those types of jobs didn’t count. (and she was paid like they didn’t count. The Church paid men more than women)

I was the head honcho, chief of the tribe, CEO of our family. I ruled the kingdom with a rod of iron. I made all the decisions.

And we had a lousy marriage.

It is a wonder we survived the first five years of marriage. I was (and can still be at times) pretty temperamental during the early years of our marriage. As the boss of the home I would draw a line and say ”this is it”. Inevitably ,my wife would cross that line and then the war would begin.

What was the root problem? Her unwillingness to “submit”?

Or perhaps I was the root problem. I was taught to be the “head of the home” and I was going to be the head no matter what. When my wife refused to comply with my lordship I would react angrily. Fortunately, I never physically beat my wife, but I sure made her pay in other ways.

Such is the fruit of the teaching that Bruce Ware espouses. I am sure I will be rejected as nothing more than an extreme case, but many years of pastoral ministry brought me into contact with hundreds of guys just like me. Poorly taught complementarians (though few would have known that label)who hurt their families and often destroyed their marriages.

Fortunately for my wife and I (and my children) I saw the error of my way. Time and study has brought me to the egalitarian position, and I have watched the liberating effects of it in the life of my wife, and my own life.

We are co-heirs of the mystery of life. We walk together, side by side. Truly equal in the eyes of God and I hope in the eyes of each other.

We still battle the after effects of the earlier years of our marriage. My wife still falls into a default mode that allows me to be the “decision maker.” Sometimes, I have to force her (by not making the decision) to make decisions for herself. Our marriage is still a work in progress. We will celebrate 30 years of marriage in a few weeks.

In his sermon mentioned above, Bruce Ware passes the buck.

  • If a man abuses his wife, often the cause is her unwillingness to submit
  • If the man says “yes dear” he is acquiescing to his wife and forsaking his responsibility to be the head of the home and thus is sinning against God
  • Egalitarians are to blame for this problem and the egalitarians are men pleasers and don’t fear God
  • Blame it on the feminists

Well Bruce, this Bruce thinks:

  • Men abuse their wives because they are sinners
  • Men abuse their wives because they are angry
  • Men abuse their wives because they are authoritarian control freaks
  • Men abuse their wives because they have been taught complentarianism, divorced from the teaching of loving their wife as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it. They are taught law rather than grace.

Several years ago our family attended a very conservative Reformed Church. Great pastor. The services were some of the best we ever attended. Several hundred people attended the Church.

We were accepted rather readily into the Church. We thought, “maybe this is the place where our journey ends. Maybe this will be our Church home.”

Things went along fairly well until one Sunday, in an after Church discussion, my wife mentioned to a group of Church women that she “worked outside the home.” Immediate silence!

From that moment forward we were treated like we had the plague. My wife was the only woman in the Church that worked outside the home. By her doing so she was sinning against God’s order for the family .Never mind her husband was sick and disabled. Sadly, we left this Church several months later.

In the mid 1990’s I pastored a Sovereign Grace Church that believed that women were to keep silence in the Church. Church business meetings were hilarious. If a woman wanted to ask a question she had to ask her husband who would then ask the question for her. At no time was the woman allowed to speak. Single women had to ask an older man to ask the question for her.

One family in the Church took this to the extreme (as if that wasn’t extreme enough) . The wife was converted during our time there.She desired to be baptized. One of our traditions was to have the baptism candidate give a testimony prior to baptism. Her husband refused to allow her to speak in Church so she couldn’t be baptized. This went on for weeks and then one day the wife came into my office crying and wanted to speak with me. She told me she really wanted to be baptized but didn’t know what to do. I told her this “your husband is standing between you and God, You need to disobey him and obediently follow the Lord in baptism.”

Needless to say I started World War lll. The wife was baptized and the husband got over it.

Such is the fruit of complentarianism when it is taken to the extreme. While I do not consider complentarianism sinful I have seen it used as a tool of abuse far too often.

Read the rest of this post . Thanks for writing this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bruce, thanks for writing this. I hate to give anecdotal evidence but that is all I have.

I also volunteered in a large church (mega 19,000 members) counseling center for a while. The church was very strong comp and spent most of their time and energy on the subject of marriage and women's roles in the church.

You want to know the big problems that were brought to us: Applying the teaching of the church to everyday life in marriage. It sounds great but try and apply it to the unregenerate and you run into all kinds of problems because there is no manual for everyday situations. And everyone has different perceptions of what things mean so there is lots of confusion.

here were the two biggest complaints:

1. Abuse-which the church would sweep under the rug or tell her to go home and pray. We would tell her to call the police! If she came in battered, we would call them whether she liked it or not because it is against the law. But it was up to her to press charges. It is amazing how many women won't press charges because of the stigma attached from church 'friends' and leaders. It would be too embarassing. The church finally put the kabosh on the abuse counseling because...are you ready...they were concerned about 'liability'.

The second major problem discussed:

2. "My husband refuses to take the spiritual lead like is taught at church and I have prayed and prayed about it to no avail."

The second one is kind of amusing in a sick way. There were many assertive women who were very upset that their marriages were not like the 'leaders' marriages.

But those of us who knew the leaders well, knew their marriage were NOTHING like they presented at seminars or from the stage. I would always get a bit of a kick out of these ambitious assertive women who wanted a place of honor for their husbands to show the church their perfect comp marriage. perhaps they could be in the next new slick church brochure like Dan and Sally. Or maybe they, too, could be marriage seminar facilitators... if only he would step up to the plate of his God ordained role.

And these women were dragging their husbands along the comp road all the way.