The Gospel Coalition Guide to Undermining Christian Marriage

(h/t to bdash 77 over at Dalrock’s blog)

The Gospel Coalition has published a step-by-step guide on how to reject the Biblical rules for marriage and then, to throw off anyone orthodox enough to try and stop you, they demonstrate how to hide your tracks with bombast and exaggeration. There’s an epidemic of men locking their wives in closets! (pay no attention to the conspicuous lack of lawsuits)

“A Hidden Epidemic God Hates”, written by one Steve Hoppe on May 11th of this year, begins with what appears to be a horror movie still and this quote, which is also meant to scare you:

Tom micromanages his wife Sarah’s physical appearance to fit his personal tastes. He picks out her clothes, tells her how she can do her hair, and restricts her diet so she remains thin. When Sarah confronts him on his controlling behavior, he cites Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.”

The word “submit” appears only once in this article, and it’s in this opening paragraph. Steve never addresses Ephesians 5:22. In fact, he never cites a single passage in the Bible regarding marriage to make his case.

Sarah, if she is a real person, doesn’t want to submit to her husband when it comes to her physical appearance or her diet. Whatever it is that constitutes her diet, it apparently keeps her healthy, though she is described as “thin” so we don’t accidentally misread this attempt at a horror story. Sarah obeys her husband, as she is commanded in Scripture. This obedience is framed as victimhood.

A real Sarah – Abraham’s wife – was praised by the Apostle Paul himself for her obedience. She planned to commit adultery at the request of her husband (it’s the only example of her obedience we have). Paul apparently doesn’t have the insights of The Gospel Coalition. Had he known what they know, he would have condemned Abraham for his spiritual abuse, rather than praise Sarah for her obedience. As we’ll soon see, Steve condemns husbands who ask for sex even for themselves, so this isn’t a stretch.

Miranda is an overprotective mother. She homeschools her 17-year-old daughter, Kate, to prevent her from being exposed to rebellious teenagers. She won’t allow her to play sports, attend dances, or get her driver’s license. She cites 1 Corinthians 15:33 as her justification for parenting this way: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

The only thing noteworthy in this story is the use of the term “overprotective mother”. I presume Steve had to include the term “overprotective”, else readers would scratch their heads wondering what was wrong here.

Bill forces his wife Angie to have sex against her will. He’s rough in bed and occasionally strikes her when they’re being intimate. He cites 1 Corinthians 7:4 as his allowance for doing so: “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.”

“Force” is an interesting term in a relationship in which sex is pledged at the start. Steve has decided, for whatever reason, not to use the clearest passage in Scripture regarding sexual duties, that being the next verse: “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

I suppose if he included the full context, then a wife who had to be forced against her will to have sex would clearly be a wife rebelling against her husband and God.

All three of these stories are attempts by the author to illustrate “spiritual abuse”. What are his specific examples of spiritual abuse? If nothing else, they are revealing. Here are some of the more interesting selections:


Physically harming you.

There’s no limits on this one. Spanking a child or slapping a face are both “spiritual abuse” here. Forget about the rod of Proverbs.

Pressuring you to engage in sexual activity.

A wife can apparently deny her husband sexual activity for the duration of their marriage, and not be guilty of spiritual abuse. After all, as Steve explicitly states, spiritual abuse can only occur when someone is in spiritual authority over someone else. That would always be husbands. Wives are not even capable of spiritual abuse. They can disobey every command regarding sex and remain innocent here, while their husbands can ask just one time too many and be condemned.

Insulting you or calling you names.

Insulting or calling names seems fair enough, until you consider that both are easy accusations for anything you don’t like to hear. “You called me fat!” is an insult and a name, and an obvious accusation to make when your husband suggests you go on a diet. Speaking of…

Forcing you to diet or exercise.

Heaven forbid. Steve has a particular problem with evil husbands demanding that their wives stay healthy.

Threatening you.

This makes most of Scripture a form of spiritual abuse. God threatens people all the time. God’s prophets make threats. Christ’s Apostles make threats. If you are forbidden from making threats, you cannot exercise spiritual authority. You can only passively wait for people to listen to you if they choose to, which puts the authority in those who are commanded to submit. This role-reversal is a common feminist Christian tactic.

Restricting your ability to access financial information.

I’ve known several marriages that have ended when the husband or the wife (almost always the wife) has spent money behind her husband’s back and bankrupted the family. Apparently, a husband who seeks real safeguards to this is abusive.

 

Preventing you from working.

Are you noticing a theme here? Any time a husband wants his wife to do something, any time a husband expects his wife to submit to him about something, it is a form of spiritual abuse. Steve doesn’t provide a single meaningful example of a husband who has spiritual authority over his wife acting in a practical way.

Telling you what you can and cannot say in small groups, church, or other social settings.

This is too all-encompassing. Are we really to presume that parents can’t tell their children what to say when they are around other adults?

Locking you in rooms, closets, or basements.

This one is meant to shock you. It’s meant to catch you off guard in case you’ve been questioning this list.

Taking away your access to transportation.

Grounding your child is a form of spiritual abuse.

Blocking your contact with counselors, mentors, or other spiritual figures.

Does this include Imams? How about psychologists who advise your wife to divorce you because she is unhappy?

Punishing you for your sins.

Remember the book of Proverbs? Every time it provides instructions for disciplining your children, it’s actually teaching you how to spiritually abuse them.


 

It became apparent to me, as I read through this article, that Steve wasn’t sure if he was writing against husbands who exercise their spiritual authority or for parents who exercise authority over their children. I suspect he came up with his definition and realized it applied to parents, so he tossed in a story about an overprotective mother and then forgot that near half of his examples of spiritual abuse are actually things that are commanded for parents when dealing with their children.

It goes further, though. Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands in the same way children are. A wife is not a child and isn’t to be treated as a child, but she is in the same position of spiritual submission. Many of these supposed forms of spiritual abuse, then, are simply real acts that a spiritual authority can use over those he oversees.

Steve hates these things, but Steve hating these things isn’t very profound. He needs to find a way to say that God hates these things. So what does he do?

In Titus 1, Paul rebukes Jewish Christians who were teaching heresy for selfish gain (sounds a lot like spiritual abuse, doesn’t it?):

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. . . . They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (Titus 1:10–11,16)

God detests spiritual abuse.

He finds a passage that has nothing to do with marriage or parenting and claims it applies to the home. Condemning heresy is framed as an equivalent to condemning patriarchal family structures and the acts which enforce that structure. This doesn’t work, though.

He should have chosen a different passage for another reason. Part of Paul’s condemnation of these heretics is that they are “insubordinate”. They refuse to submit. This passage is the condemnation of insubordination to real spiritual authorities, not of spiritual authority wielded for selfish gain.

Pastors and church leaders, it’s long past time we stand up against all forms of abuse. This includes spiritual abuse in the church and the home. Domestic spiritual abuse is far more common than you think. It hurts innocent sheep daily. It destroys the fabric of families and churches.

Steve ends his post against the role of husbands in marriage by calling pastors to help him bring down the patriarchy. Having established that spiritual abuse just is that set of acts which give teeth to spiritual authority, his condemnation of spiritual abuse and his call to arms is an inquisition into any real forms of spiritual hierarchy in the churches of his readers. Since only men can be spiritual abusers in marriage, only wives can be the victims of spiritual abuse. In this way, Steve has found the ultimate Christianesque form of a get-out-of-marriage-free card. Wives need only identify a single example of their husbands attempting to exercise spiritual authority and BAM, spiritual abuse.

Without even feigning respect for the passages of Scripture that describe how Christian husbands and wives are to live together, he condemns them all. After all, who cares about Paul when we have these millions of women locked up in cages?

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One thought on “The Gospel Coalition Guide to Undermining Christian Marriage

  1. Heidi

    Reading through these “examples,” it shows how Hoppe is lumping all discipline and household hierarchy with actual, true “abuse” of one’s position. “Forcing” the wife to have sex–what does that mean? How many husbands are hitting their wives yelling “1 Corinthians 7:4! 1 Corinthians 7:4!” as she weeps and quietly begs him to stop? Or does it mean, “Honey, I’d really like to be intimate with you tonight?” Or something else?

    Again with the “overprotective” mother (clearly a token Abusive Female): “Miranda is an overprotective mother. She homeschools her 17-year-old daughter, Kate, to prevent her from being exposed to rebellious teenagers. She won’t allow her to play sports, attend dances, or get her driver’s license. She cites 1 Corinthians 15:33 as her justification for parenting this way: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

    Is homeschooling meant to be abuse? Are there not good reasons for denying a 17-year-old a license, since not all teens are mature enough to handle a car? This is lumped in with social activities, so that all “protective” choices are tainted with the implication of abuse.

    Reply

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