Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Response to "Ruby Wives" by Sam Greenlee

I borrowed this post (with permission) from Sam Greenlee, who wrote this insightful response to a Facebook group called "Ruby Wives," which teaches terribly unhealthy attitudes and practices within marriage. Enjoy!

A couple of days ago, Facebook Memories reminded me of a terrible list of "insights" published by a group called "Ruby Wives" that I responded to, point-for-point. I am sharing it here because all this same nonsense is spread out so diffusely in so much Christian advice and teaching.
Here is the full article with my commentary in parentheses:

1. Men thrive on praise. Your verbal compliments and sincere appreciation are like gasoline in a race car. Your praise keeps him racing for you.
(Most humans like praise, regardless of gender. It is a good thing to praise your spouse when they do praiseworthy things, and to be grateful for the gifts they bring into your life, but don't offer insincere praise just to make them happier.)

2. Never tell him how to drive. Just wear your seat belt and whisper a prayer if you are afraid of his driving. Men absolutely hate to be told how to drive.
(Both spouses should try to be gentle and loving when offering criticism, but sometimes criticism is warranted. One of the benefits of marriage is that both partners have a life-time commitment to the other and can trust one another to look out for their best interest. This creates fertile ground for sanctification, as both partners can lovingly help the other to see their blind spots and to do better. Unsafe driving is a risk for your spouse, for any passengers, and for others on the road and warrants a conversation.)

3. Your motherhood cape...You need to leave it at the door of your bedroom. Remember, you married your husband before you had kids. He needs you to be his lover in the bedroom. Don't ever let him feel like he's last place. His reach for you is important. Your response to his reach even more so. He connects with you emotionally when he connects with your body. Don't let this area in your marriage be neglected.
(The apostle Paul offers his wisdom that husband and wife should maintain the sexual aspect of their marriage, unless they choose to abstain by mutual consent for a limited time. So it is a good idea to cultivate that aspect of marriage, but there is no specific level of regularity required and the willing consent of both partners is always necessary.)

4. A woman of honor does not need to correct her man. Don't correct him. He's not your child. He's a man.
(No one, with the exception of Jesus, is perfect. This means everyone needs correction sometimes. Correction can be given lovingly and in a way that does not demean the other person or embarrass them in front of others. See #2.)

5. Your reaction when he walks in the door is so important.
Your warm smile and light in your eyes is his greatest welcome. Put everything down to greet him. You should always be his greatest hello.
(It is great to really acknowledge the humanity of other people, to greet them with attentiveness, kindness, hospitality, and love. This is a great practice within marriage for both partners, although a marriage does not benefit from legalism and there will be times when either one of you is distracted and busy. You are both called to love one another well, but neither of you is called to be the door-man or hostess for the other.)

6. Chaos and clutter are not pleasant for a man in his castle. A man likes to come home to a clutter free environment.
(If a man does not like clutter in his house, he can always help clean it up. Different marriages will have different arrangements based on who is working, who is in school, who is at home, etc. There is no general rule in Christian scripture or theology that wives are particularly responsible for a clean house.)

7. Whatever he provides for you...a house, car, gifts, etc... Appreciate and don't take his efforts for granted. Whatever you do- don't complain and nag. It's like arrows piercing his heart. A man's identity is often felt by his work and how he provides for his family. This is a natural instinct. Men are wired this way. Don't put down his job or what he provides you with.
(It's absurd to claim that all men are wired the same way regarding provision and employment. Men are diverse and unique individuals, as are women. Gratitude is a great practice for every Christian and greedy materialism is a sin to be avoided, but these are not gender-specific.)

8. The Holy Spirit never needs a wife's help in speaking and convicting her husband's heart. Your job is to pray and let God do the work.
(The Holy Spirit doesn't need humans to share the gospel with one another, but God has chosen to involve humans in that work. The Holy Spirit doesn't need a church community to help Christians in their sanctification, but God has chosen to work through such a means. There is no prohibition in the Bible or in Christian theology on a wife being iron who can sharpen the iron of her husband. A healthy Christian marriage will involve both partners spurring one another on toward holiness. It is true that not every situation calls for one spouse to offer correction to the other, so discernment is needed. See #2.)

9. A moment of dishonor can cause great damage...Even if he laughs it off or doesn't say he's me, disrespect and dishonor hurt him more than he tells you.
(It is not clear what a "moment of dishonor" means. If it has to do with unkindness, an insult, etc., then really the issue boils down to sin. If either spouse sins against the other, he or she should apologize, seek not to do it again, accept forgiveness, and be reconciled.)

10. Your honor keeps his heart open for you.

11. Never talk about his weaknesses to others. It's called respect. You represent your husband. speak well of him or not at all.
(It's a good idea for neither spouse to gripe about the other to others, in general. Christians should not gossip about others and Christians are told to present their complaints about wrongdoing first to the wrongdoer for the sake of repentance, reform, and reconciliation.)

12. Your "Not tonights" are huge rejections to a man. Let there be very few of these. If he's reaching, you're blessed. When's he not reaching for you, then there's something wrong in your relationship.
(It's ok to be too tired or stressed or just not to be interested. It's good to speak openly and honestly with one another about your felt needs in this regard and to cultivate this part of your relationship without one partner always having to assent when the other wants it. Your husband is an adult and should be capable of handling small disappointments with empathy and understanding for your own feelings. Also, don't buy in to to generalized broad-brush representations of how each sex feels about sex.)

13. Your looks do matter. Women often say, "My husband loves me just the way I am." This is true. And he won't tell you because he doesn't want to hurt your feelings....but honestly, he wishes you would dress and try to be your best for him. Many wives let themselves go and get stuck in a frump girl slump. Men are visual. Just being honest... a wife should be her best. You dressed nice and put make up on to impress him when you were dating...He still deserves this.
(It is good for both partners to try to love one another well, to be generous and considerate, and to tend lovingly to their relationship. This means it is a good idea for both partners to be continually putting in effort to make the other happy and to help them feel loved (although "happiness" can be a false idol if it gets in the way of holiness). It can be great for both of you to take care of your bodies for many reasons, including for one another's aesthetic preferences, but you also both need to love and accept the other when the other is exhausted, or needs a break from "performing", etc.)

14. A man will share and open up when he feels safe to do so. Keep your love nest with no thorns. Don't tell him how to feel or criticize him when he's being vulnerable with you. A man needs a soft place to land. Your warmth and non-judgmental approach offers him this.
(People in general sometimes need a place where they can be vulnerable and listened to without being given advice or criticism. It is important for everyone to recognize these times and to behave accordingly. It is silly to pretend this is a special husband-thing.)

15. Every man has a little boy in him. God made men this way. Don't forget to sometimes play, flirt, and laugh with your man. Men connect with women who can relax with them. Don't take every moment of the day too seriously.
(Everyone sometimes needs to play, to laugh, to have fun, to relax. This is part of why God gave us the Sabbath. Don't try to make in this into a gendered thing.)

16. Respect to a man is the same as romance is to a woman...Men feel loved when they are respected. Your respect is what he desires...more than your romantic gestures.
(Men, like women, are diverse unique individuals. Christians should do their best to respect everyone they encounter, which is not the same thing as obedience or pretending that a person who is wrong is actually right.)

17. When the world is against him, always be present and by his side. Your loyalty is everything to him.
(Loyalty and faithfulness are important to any marriage and to both spouses. Obviously you should both be faithful and supportive to one another. But again, you don't need to support someone when they are wrong and refusing to recognize it. That does them no good.)

18. Don't try to correct in him in how to be a spiritual leader. Let him become a leader by trial and error. God will raise him up. Yes, its scary being in the back seat, but there can't be two drivers at the same time. Let him lead the prayers at the dinner table. Let him suggest the devotions. Let him lead. God will honor you for this. Your husband will make mistakes...extend grace.
(There aren't two drivers in a car, but there are two on a Tiller truck. "That's silly! Marriage isn't like a Tiller truck!" you say. Sure. It also isn't a car. You are both responsible for your own spiritual lives and mutually accountable to and for one another and for your children. You should pray together, discuss matters of faith together, seek discernment on big decisions together, etc. Don't worry about who is in charge "as the Gentiles do". Seek to be faithful together in mutual loving submission to one another that seeks consensus in the Spirit. You should both be open to loving correction from the other.)

19. He needs your prayers when he's in battle. Be his best prayer partner. A praying woman is a strength to him.
(It is good for people to pray for other people.)

20. A man who loves his wife will do just about anything to please her...and a good woman will never take advantage of this. Appreciate and value what you have...Because you never know when it could be lost or stolen.
(Gratitude is good. Refusal to take advantage of others is good. These don't need to be gendered.)

Thursday, February 09, 2017

8 Ways Women Can Kindly Demand Equal Treatment (At Home, At Work, At School, and In the Church)

This list could have been a lot longer! Men aren’t the only ones with sexist attitudes against women. We ladies were raised to believe these very same things about ourselves. As a society, we’ve (ironically) worked together to keep women “in their place.” But it’s time for that to change. We’ve seen the light—that women are, in fact, equal in value with men and equal image-bearers of our Creator. Scripture is clear that we have equal access to salvation, equal responsibility for the problems in the world, and an equal calling to minister to, nurture, and rescue the lost. It’s time to ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the lies and half-truths about women’s value—and then confront them and reject them wherever they are found. Let us replace that which marginalizes and divides with that which unites us in love and respect. After all,There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).

1.      Stop asking permission.
     Let’s say you have a chance to hang out with your husband and you have an idea of something fun you’d like to do. How do you bring it up to him? Do you ask him permission, saying something like, “Hey, Joe, can we go see a movie tonight?” Or, “Is it okay if we go see that movie tonight?” If so, did you realize that, just by the way you’re phrasing the question, you are giving him the entire decision for what you hoped would be a joint activity? You’ve just posed a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, and unless this is something you’ve both been wanting to do for a long time, he’s most likely going to say ‘no’—simply because his mind is probably somewhere else at the moment and it’s often hard for men to switch gears that fast. And, when he does say no, you’ll probably feel like he’s being controlling and doesn’t care about what you want—as if he denied you any say so (when you actually denied yourself!). Often, the little power struggles that drive women crazy are the ones we create ourselves when we subconsciously accept and maintain a subservient position. Next time you want something, try a different approach—an approach that solidifies your position as an equal. For example, “Hey, Joe, I was thinking we could go see a movie tonight. What do you think?” See the difference? Instead of putting the entire decision on him, you’re inviting him into a joint discussion as an equal partner in the activity. You’re actually honoring him by, one, taking the pressure off of him for coming up with every activity, two, by being willing to hear what he would like to do, three, by letting him know you’re wanting to spend more time with him, and four, by offering a chance to plan a relationship-building experience together. Whether you end up at the movie or having a quiet evening at home with some hot cocoa and a shared blanket, you’re far less likely to resent him at the end of the night.

2.      Stop apologizing for everything.
     If you spill hot coffee in someone’s lap or lose your temper and say something mean, by all means, apologize. However, if you’re late getting dinner on the table because you’ve been working hard all day, don’t apologize. You’ve done nothing wrong. Instead, ask the family to pull together and help. That’s what families are for. If you made a decision in good faith that your boss or husband doesn’t happen to agree with, don’t feel like you have to apologize for it. Just explain your reasons, if pressed, and/or offer to readjust where necessary. But, as an adult, you have both the right and the responsibility to make choices, recognizing that sometimes those choices may not be perfectly on point. That’s just being human. It’s not a failing of womanhood. So, don’t apologize for not having perfect judgment or insight in every situation. Just recognize the error and adjust as necessary. As a general rule, try to limit your apologies to moral failures or for causing someone harm (whether intentionally or not). Otherwise, admit the error, but don’t apologize for it. Just fix it. To apologize for every single failure is to reinforce the idea that it’s your job to be perfect, that the person you’re apologizing to is your moral authority or superior, and that, if you’re not perfect, then you’re somehow less valuable as a human being. All of these are lies. Don’t perpetuate them.

3.      Stop treating adults like children.
     Women (particularly, Christian women) often buy into the lie that it’s their job to be everyone else’s “helper.” (In fact, the word mistranslated as “suitable helper” in Gen. 2:18 actually means something more like man’s best match and mighty defender/rescuer.) While there’s something beautiful about a person (males and females) who has a servant’s heart, there’s something unhealthy and misfocused about someone who doesn’t know how to value their own time and resources or set healthy boundaries. Women tend to believe that, if there’s a need, it’s their job to fix it. (Which doesn’t reflect the best opinion of what the Holy Spirit is capable of….) This is particularly true when it comes to their husbands. Here’s a tip: If you truly respect your husband, you won’t feel the need to serve him hand and foot or come to his “rescue” every time he can’t find the ketchup. He’s an adult. Stop treating him like a child. Let him figure some things out for himself. He can do it. He can cook a meal. He can do a load of laundry. He can take care of his own children for an afternoon. (It’s not babysitting if it’s your own kids!) Stop jumping in and doing everything. Let him join you in the responsibilities of caring for the family, and you could even step up to the plate in areas of minor home repair and auto maintenance, for example, as needed. The point is, if you want a love and respect-based partnership instead of a servant/leader relationship with someone, don’t assume the role of a servant. After all, you’re not really helping anyone when you undermine their identity as adults by catering to them as if they’re toddlers. So, go ahead and see yourself as worthy of respect, behave in a manner worthy of respect, and you’re far more likely to gain respect. (And do the same for others!)

4.      Stop reducing your value to how you look.
       Though we hear this message often, far more often we hear the message that our bodies (and, hence, ourselves) were designed to be little more than playthings for men. That is a LIE! Don’t feed the lie by dressing in a way that invites attention to your body (and yourself) as a sexual object. Rather, make yourself beautiful from the inside out, recognizing that you were designed to be intelligent, competent, compassionate, diligent, clever, wise, strong, and Christ-like. Of course, at the end of the day, no matter what clothes you choose, it’s never your responsibility to keep men from lusting. That’s on them. But you do have the responsibility to recognize your own identity as an image-bearer of God and to let that identity influence every aspect of your life. God has given you far too many gifts for you to sift them down to just one—the way you look. When you see yourself as more than a body and choose to build good character, others will also begin to see the real YOU behind the pretty face.

5.      Recognize and confront sexual harassment.
     Looking back, I’m appalled at how often I endured or ignored sexual harassment. Why did I do it? Three really stupid reasons: One, I didn’t recognize it as sexual harassment, Two, I didn’t feel entitled to better treatment, and/or Three, I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the person treating me like a piece of ___. (You fill in the blank.) As a society, sexual harassment against women is modeled and played out for us in so many different ways, we have started to see it as normal, healthy behavior—as if sexual harassment and even assault is some kind of legitimate courting ritual. It isn’t.

    Sexual harassment is the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks. So, if a guy you’ve never met approaches you with a skeezy, “Hey, Baby,” you know this interaction has already gone south. To him, you’re a sexual object, not a person. Examples of sexual harassment include everything from wolf calls to asking about your sexual history or fantasies to touching your hair, clothing or body. For a more detailed description, go to: If someone (whether male or female) treats you this way, and you didn’t ask for it or don’t want it, it’s harassment, and it’s illegal. That person is not your friend. You are worth too much to become some disposable character in their sexual fantasies. Don’t worry about their feelings! (They obviously aren’t worried about yours!) Look them in the eye and clearly tell them to stop. A simple, “Please don’t speak to me that way,” should be enough, but if it isn’t, feel free to report them. But whatever you do, don’t just take it.

6.      Hold your head up, stand up straight, and look people in the eye.
     This might sound simplistic, but body language and eye contact are surprisingly powerful. If you carry yourself with an air of confidence, people will be less apt to think of you as beneath them, and their behavior towards you will adjust to those impressions. If you’re used to being walked on, overlooked, or marginalized, you have probably learned to keep your head down, talk quietly, and avoid eye-contact. It’s time to change that self-perception (because it’s based on a lie!) and practice a healthy, pro-active self-confidence. You don’t have to be the smartest, most attractive, or most talented person on the planet to stand alongside those who think they are. Just being you—a fully human being with inherent worth—is enough! No one—regardless of their posturing—is, at base, better than you. God made you in His own image to be YOU—a unique, non-reproducible way of reflecting His image to the world. So, when you start thinking about what you have to offer, don’t ignore God’s voice on the subject! As a child of God, you have Christ! I ask you, what better quality is there?

     “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (I Cor. 1:20-25).

7.      If possible, kindly replace sexist comments with egalitarian ones. Otherwise, flatly reject sexism.
      Sexist comments are so prevalent, we often fail to recognize them as such, but if they go unnoticed, their power to marginalize and silence half the population will continue unchecked. Because sexism is so prevalent in our society, both men and women use sexist comments without even realizing it. So, if you notice a sexist remark, simply kindly replace it with an egalitarian one. For example, if asked, “Can I speak to the man of the house?” Answer, “We’re both in charge of the house. How may I help you?” Or, if your pastor jokes, “I can see who wears the pants in your marriage,” you can respond with, “Actually, we both wear pants, we both care for the children, we both work hard, and we both love Jesus.”

      Other comments are harder to correct, such as those which deny you a voice or a promotion or an education based on your gender, or those which qualify as sexual harassment. For example, if you are told you won’t be considered for a promotion because the men in the office wouldn’t be able to respect a pretty woman as their boss, that’s grounds for lawsuit. Let’s say you’re cleaning a bottom shelf and your boss quips, “That’s where I like you. On your knees.” That’s sexual harassment. Also a lawsuit. Look them right in the eyes, calmly but clearly point out the sexism, and tell them you expect more respect in future. If they can’t comply, it’s time to find a good attorney.

8.      Embrace your femininity!
       Sadly, many women have been made to feel so devalued that they have adopted masculine behaviors. They may change everything from their clothing to their hairstyles to the way they walk and talk—just to blend in with the men. But to reject your own femininity is to implicitly accept and promote the idea that there’s something wrong with it. There is nothing wrong with femininity or womanliness or motherhood or sisterhood. You can wear a skirt (or not) and makeup (or not) and you should still be able to expect respect and recognition. You can be feminine, react in a way a woman would react, think in a way a woman would think—all without having to adjust it or apologize for it. Let’s say you’re sitting in a meeting where the plight of orphans is being discussed. You tear up because you identify with the trauma these children are experiencing. A man looks at you and says, “Are you going to be okay? Can you continue discussing this topic?” You can respond with, “The fact that I’m not okay with children being abandoned means I’m the perfect person to discuss this topic.” Don’t believe or perpetuate the notion that womanhood and femininity is somehow weaker or less capable or less valuable than masculinity. There is a great deal of power—life-changing, life-embracing power!—in the gifts women possess.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Response to Pro-Choice Argument: "It's Not the Government's Job to Legislate Morality."

I've heard this argument several times in support of keeping abortion legal, but surprisingly I'm hearing it from otherwise anti-abortion people. They say they think abortion is wrong. They even admit abortion takes an innocent human life, but they believe that, because the government can't change hearts, they shouldn't make abortion illegal--leaving up to the individual to decide, saying, "It's not the government's job to legislate morality."

That makes me want to ask:

1. What do you think morality is?
2. What do you think the government's job is?

In the interest of not rambling on forever, I'm just going to tell you what morality is.

Morality is the internal instinct by which we navigate our relationships with God, other people, and the world. Moral behavior is behavior that exhibits an accurate recognition and respect for the inherent worth & qualities of God, other people, and the natural world.

In other words, morality is all about relationship: relationship with God, relationship with mankind, and relationship with the natural world. Morality is the guide by which we decide what is the right way to behave toward God, people, and nature vs. what is the wrong way to treat these entities. Morality is NOT just a set of rules. Morality goes deeper than that.

That being said, let's think about what the government does. Government's job is to set rules based on our collective sense of--guess what?--morality! Even though rules themselves do not create morality and morality itself is not just a set of rules, the government's job is to try to find the most effective way to make people do what is moral--the kinds of behaviors that create an environment where all people (and even animals & nature, to a certain extent) can exist with the reasonable certainty that they will be treated fairly (or, with the recognition and respect for their inherent worth).

In other words, government is all about making laws and laws are all about morality. In fact, there is no such thing as a law for which moral principles were not integral to its creation.

You can't have government without lawmaking, and you can't have lawmaking without guiding moral principles. So, to say that government's job is not to legislate morality is to say that government has no purpose or function at all. If you believe government has no purpose, then you must believe we should be living in anarchy.

Perhaps you could respond with, "No, government could stay out of the morally-based, lawmaking business, but still exist to provide us with civil services, like roads and schools and prisons." But without a morally-based method of taxation, dividing up funds, distributing funds, and choosing what kinds of services to provide, there can be no such function. (And we're not even going to get into the difficulties of having a prison system without any kind of moral compass guiding us.) Again, government requires morality to exist, let alone function.

You might say, "But our government leaders are flawed people, at best, and some are deeply corrupt. How can we trust them to legislate morality for the rest of us?" Here I would agree with you. We can't trust them--at least, not fully. However, in a republic, which is the form of government we have in the United States, the people have the responsibility and the power to insist that our leaders make moral laws--even if the leaders themselves are immoral. And if we manage to have moral laws, those who aren't sure what is right or wrong will be encouraged to, at least, conduct themselves in a moral way as they figure out what they believe.

So, even though it's true that laws do not establish morality, they do have the power to create a moral environment within which we can learn and grow.

Now to the topic of abortion: If you believe (in your own, internal, moral center, with a clear view of the inherent worth of other human beings and your relationships to them) that it is wrong to take an innocent, human life, then you must believe that abortion is a great evil. If abortion is a great evil, then the government's primary job is to make it illegal. If any government allows a great evil--a behavior that denies the basic, inherent worth of human beings--to continue, that government has failed to perform it's primary function.

So, in response to the pro-choice argument: "It's not the government's job to legislate morality," I will respond with: "Government's ONLY job is to legislate morality."

If you believe abortion is no different from murder, but also believe murdering a born person should be illegal while murdering an unborn person should be legal, you are in a state of self-contradiction. I suggest you reevaluate your position and choose to uphold the morality of simply letting other people live. And when evil people or an evil government arbitrarily decides that one human life is less valuable than another, it is your moral obligation to stand against that kind of core immorality, to hold your government accountable, and insist they make moral laws consistent with the reality of the equal, inherent worth of all human beings, in all its forms, at all stages of development, from conception to the grave.

© 2016; S.E. Thomas has a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Idaho.